By Brenda Coffield
A rat is a rat is a rat, and a border terrier doesn’t care whether it is above or below ground. According to our border terriers, the new sport of Barn Hunt is the best idea humans have had in a long time. They love it!
Many of our borders have been preparing to play the game for years. They have hunted rats in PVC tubes at hunting games such as Jo Ann Frier-Murza’s Ratting for Ratings and Jersey Junkyard Challenge, games calling for barn hunt type skills. Other borders have honed their skills at old-fashioned barn hunts.
The official sport of Barn Hunt was the brainchild of Barn Hunt Association LLC founder, Robin Nuttall, who used the older games and sought to provide a venue for all dogs, big and small, who like to hunt vermin. Historically, many breeds were used by itinerant “ratcatchers” to rid farms of crop-robbing, disease-spreading rats. The sport of Barn Hunt is modeled after the job these working dogs performed.
The sport takes place in a barn-like atmosphere that can be re-created almost anywhere. An enclosed ring, 50-60 bales of straw or hay, some PVC tubes, and some rats are all it takes for the border terriers get their rat on Barn Hunt style.
Dogs progress through the classes beginning with “Instinct” where they need only indicate to the handler within one minute which of three visible tubes contains the live rat. One tube is dry, and the other contains used litter. The handler makes the find known to the judge. Only one leg is required to earn the title RATI.
Dogs are not required to enter Instinct before they enter the next class “Novice”, but many do in much the same way that earthdogs enter Introduction to Quarry. Barn Hunt Association LLC, an independent organization, awards an Instinct title “RATI”, but the first title that will be recognized by the American Kennel Club is Barn Hunt Novice “RATN”.
Novice and all successor classes require a dog to perform three basic elements: tunnel, climb, and find the hidden rat(s) within a specified amount of time. Tunnels are made of straw bales and supporting boards, and the tunnels become longer with more turns as dogs progress through the classes. For border terriers, climb means that all four paws must touch the top of a bale at some time during the run. Novice courses are only two bales high and three tubes are hidden: one dry, one litter, and one live rat. Dogs must tunnel, climb, and indicate the live rat within two minutes without falsely indicating any other tube. When a dog earns three legs, the dog has earned the Barn Hunt Novice title “RATN”. What border terrier wouldn’t be proud to have this title?
Open, Senior, and Master classes are performed on more difficult courses with more time to indicate an increasing number of live rats without being confounded by an increasing number of litter tubes. Three legs are required to earn the Open “RATO” and Senior “RATS” titles, while five legs are required to earn the Master title “RATM”. The most skilled dogs have the opportunity to earn a prefix title Barn Hunt Master Champion “RATCh”, 10 Master legs after the RATM title, and Barn Hunt Master Champion Excellent “RATChX”, 20 Master Legs after the RATM title. Now that’s a lot of ratting!
Before dogs can compete in licensed trials, they must be registered with Barn Hunt Association LLC, but training clinics and fun tests are scheduled throughout the country. Check out the official Barn Hunt Association LLC site for complete rules and an event calendar. http://barnhunt.com Don’t forget to register your dog.
Get in the hunt! Your border will love you for it!