BADGER BAITING: A Bloodsport From Centuries Past

Written by Gayne Young on January 27, 2016


Take one powerhouse of pissed off tenacious animal armed with fangs and claws, throw in a jacked up wiener dog, a massive crowd of drunken men, and a lot of money passing hands, and you’ve got yourself a party.

Or at least you did when badger baiting was legal in the 1800’s.

One of many baiting sports from years past, badger baiting entailed fighting a dog and a badger in a confined space for the purposes of entertainment.

Gayne C. Young Outdoor Beasts BADGER BAITING: A Bloodsport From Centuries Past

Here’s how it worked.

The owner of the badger would place the animal in a box which contained an opening and a narrow tunnel into a lower den in the center of the ring. Once this was done a “timekeeper” would set the clock and the owner of the attacking dog would let his canine free. The dog would enter the tunnel – while being drunkenly cheered on – and down into the den in an attempt to pull out the badger. More often than not the badger would clamp onto the dog’s muzzle, cheek, eyelids, lips, or ears first.

And not let go.

Gayne C. Young Outdoor Beasts BADGER BAITING: A Bloodsport From Centuries Past Badger-baiting1

The dog in turn would try to latch onto the angry badger. Regardless of their connection, the owner of the dog would pull it by its hind legs, along with the clamped on badger, out of the tunnel. The animals were separated and the fun begins again.

Bets are placed on how fast the dog can yank out the oversized rat or on how many times he can pull it out within a set amount of time. This proved hell on both badger and dog and more often than not the dog would sustain serious injury or even death.

Gayne C. Young Outdoor Beasts BADGER BAITING: A Bloodsport From Centuries Past Badger-baiting2

Yep, badgers are that tough.

Dogs were often hurt so badly that they would have to be euthanized on the spot via gunshot, stabbing, or shovel beating to the head. Dogs were specifically trained for this activity with Dachshunds and terriers being the preferred breeds. But of course wherever there is fun – especially fun being bet on – there will be cheating.

Gayne C. Young Outdoor Beasts BADGER BAITING: A Bloodsport From Centuries Past Badger-baiting3

Sometimes the badger had its tendons cut to keep it from lunging out of its den toward the dog.  Sometimes the badger was kept in its den by nailing its tail to the floor. Badger baiting was popular throughout Great Britain in the 1800’s but was banned due to its being perceived as a cruel sport some 170 years ago. Despite this, the occasional badger baiting contest is broken up by law-enforcement even today. One such event was stopped in Ireland as late as 2009.

Gayne Young

If you mixed Ernest Hemingway, Robert Ruark, Hunter S. Thompson, and four shots of tequila in a blender, a “Gayne Young” is what you’d call the drink!

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Gayne C. Young

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