“Terrier work, this is our soft underbelly. A lot of people would say that if you’re going trail hunting why do you need terriermen following you around? Yes, it is totally legal for them to be out doing everything if they follow the correct exemptions but it does flag up a bit of a marker to everyone, you know why do you as trail hunting, do you need them there?” –Mark Hankinson, former MFHA Director, Hunting Office Executive Director and former Master of the Wilton Hunt.
The recent arrest of six men and seizure of 22 dogs used for hunting in a joint operation by the RSPCA and police, has thrown the spotlight onto the usually shadowy world of the terrierman.
Often seen speeding along country roads on overloaded quad bikes with terriers crammed into metal boxes, terriermen are surely by definition incongruous to a day’s supposed ‘trail hunting’. Because surely if the hunt were following a trail, as they like to claim, there would be no need for them.
Terriermen Pre Ban
What was the role of terriermen before the Hunting Act 2004 (”Ban”) was introduced?
Before the Ban, terriermen would routinely use dogs to flush out a mammal that had been chased to ground by hounds, enabling the hunt to continue.
The exemptions of the flawed Hunting Act allows the use of a single ‘soft’ i.e. not a fighting terrier, to flush a mammal from underground only to prevent damage to birds being kept for shooting, it is still illegal to kill the animal.
There should be no need for terriers where a trail has been laid.
‘Stopping up’ / Blocking fox dens or badger setts
On the morning of a hunt day, terriermen would block the holes of the dens where the mammals rested, forcing them to find shelter above ground during the day. This also prevented the animals from being able to find safety and ‘go to ground’ during the hunt.
In October 2020 the Barlow Hunt’s terriermen were covertly filmed blocking an active badger sett during a cubbing meet in Ashover. The Ban made sett stopping an illegal activity.
Since the Ban, it is now illegal to chase wild animals with dogs. So why are terriermen still there? Surely terriermen would have no role to play during an actual ‘trail hunt’? The answer is they don’t. The hunts are routinely breaking the law and chasing live quarry and it’s business as usual for the terriermen.