National Working

Terrier Federation
Report to the Committe of Inquiry into
Hunting with Dogs in England and Wales

(aka, "The Burns Report")

Excerpts from the submission of the National Working Terrier Federation to the Hunting Inquiry or "Burns Report" on Hunting with Dogs in the United Kingdom. The complete report can be read at:


  • The N.W.T.F. represents more practising terrier men than any other organisation. Its membership consists of a wide cross section of both professional and voluntary pest controllers, game keepers and hunt terrier men. It consists of 26 member terrier clubs and represents around 3000-4,000 individual members, plus other affiliated organisations.

  • N.W.T.F. Member Terrier Clubs vary in size from small local terrier clubs, to larger national organisations such as the Fell and Moorland Working Terrier Club (F.M.W.T.C.) and the Jack Russell Terrier Club of Great Britain (J.R.T.C.G.B.).

  • The other natural instinct of the working terrier, and a characteristic which has been enhanced by selective breeding, is that of barking at it's quarry. Until very recently this was an essential quality in any working terrier in that it was the only means by which it could be located whilst underground or in dense cover (i.e. prior to the development and use of locating equipment).

  • The terrier's primary role is not to fight with it's quarry. The role is to locate the quarry below ground and to bark at it continuously, either causing it to leave the earth, or alternatively to indicate where in the earth the quarry is located, in order that it can be dug to and dispatched. Terriers are also used to locate and flush quarry above ground and in dense cover.

  • The standard locating equipment operates up to a depth of fifteen feet and this may be doubled with a special adapter. This is ample, as the average depth of a dig is around three feet. Today, It would be most unusual to intentionally allow a terrier to enter a fox earth unless wearing locating equipment. It helps safeguard the terrier and also ensures that the quarry is quickly found and dispatched.

  • The 1992 Badgers Act made it illegal to enter a terrier into an active badger sett. These are a much deeper and far more extensive range of tunnels than a fox earth. As a result the earths which are worked today are much smaller and less complex than those in the past. Once again, this means the quarry is more quickly and easily located before being dispatched.

  • So, what is terrier work? What does it involve and how is it carried out? First and foremost it is a form of pest control. In fact it has many similarities with that other well known and widely practised form of pest control - ferreting.

    In both instances, it is a domestic animal fitted with a locator collar which goes below ground to locate and flush out another mammal. In both instances, the quarry may not always leave the earth and it may prove necessary to dig down in order to retrieve and dispatch it. In fact, the only real difference is that one involves a ferret and a rabbit, and the other a terrier and a fox.

    How is it carried out? Let us consider the typical scenario of a farmer who has been losing chickens. One day, he notices fresh chicken feathers in a hedge bottom. As he gets closer he can see the feathers are outside one of the entrance holes to an old rabbit warren. He quietly approaches the entrance by moving around the earth's perimeter, not across it, avoiding any unnecessary noise or vibrations. Upon closer inspection, it is apparent that a couple of the entrance holes have been slightly enlarged. He carefully checks these and the remainder of the warren for signs of badger (as detailed in the Five Rules for the Terrierman card - see Appendix V), but none are present. He does however notice fox pad marks in the sand outside one of the holes, more feathers inside one of the other holes, the distinctive odour of fox and a fox dropping on a nearby mole hill. Confident that the earth is now being used by a fox he quickly returns home.

    Once home, he collects his farmhand, terrier, bag of purse nets, terrier locator, spade, probe bar and gun. The terrier locator is checked to ensure it is working correctly and they drive back to the den, parking the vehicle a short distance away. Once again, they approach the den quietly, this time placing a net over each of the entrance holes. The farmer returns to his vehicle, fits his terrier with it's locating collar and takes both dog and gun back to the earth. He allows the dog to quietly slip into the larger entrance hole and stands back with his gun. After a few minutes the terrier is heard to be barking below ground. A few minutes later there is a brown flash at one of the other holes and a fox is bundled up alive as the net quickly closes around it. The farmer moves swiftly across the earth, quickly inspects and identifies the quarry as a fox (and not another animal) and dispatches it immediately. The fox is removed and the net replaced. A short while later the terrier emerges from the same hole as the fox, shakes the sand from its coat and excitedly wags his tail at his master. The terrier is once again allowed to enter the earth, but this time from each of the remaining entrance holes. Each time he passes straight through the earth indicating there are no more foxes in residence. The dog is checked for any signs of injuries, none are present, and it and the gun are returned to the vehicle. The nets are removed and each of the entrance holes is loosely filled with soil so that the farmer can tell if the earth was being shared with another fox, or if one decides to take up residence at a later date. In a short time both dog and master are back at the farmhouse and a known poultry killer has been prevented from causing further damage.

  • Foxes are lazy diggers, whilst they may occasionally dig their own earths, they much prefer to enlarge a rabbit burrow, or other hole, and take up residence there. They also make use of man made structures such as drains and hay bale stacks, and frequent rock piles.

  • For the purpose of this report, the author surveyed a cross section of hunt terrier men. The survey included a gun pack, footpacks and mounted packs. The regions covered were Wales, the Pennines, the Midlands, the South of England and the West Country. In most instances the findings were very similar. These being that, once a terrier had entered the earth, the majority of foxes would chose to leave and this would normally be in ten minutes or less. Where it was necessary to dig down to the fox, the average depth was around three foot and the average time taken approximately thirty minutes or less.

  • Wildlife Network, an organisation known to be less than sympathetic towards terrier work, in it's literature ("Putting the Fox First") poses the question "So why not ban terrier work?" and goes on to state that "/n an ideal world we would - but the world is not ideal and realism must guide us here." ......."Ban terrier work and hunting would be seen by many farmers - the majority in some areas - as next to useless as a form of fox control. And that would lead to more shooting, more snaring, greater cruelty and quite possibly a higher annual death toll".