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What does bird dogging mean?
The term ‘bird dogging’ is used by a number of people to refer to the practice of trapping birds using snares, such as a ‘nest’ or ‘battery’.
Although some people use the term, some people avoid it because they believe it can be a cruel and unlawful practice. It is a common belief that the term should not be used to describe capturing birds because of its use in the past to refer to the capture of songbirds during the course of World War 1.
It is not clear how the term ‘bird dogging’ came to be associated with the use of snares to capture birds, but it may have arisen because the word ‘snare’ is a common synonym for ‘trapping’ in North America, while ‘bird’ is used instead in the UK.
“A large battery, set up between four and eight years, may contain from three to thirty snares, and is set up to catch a considerable number of different birds” (Hutchinson 1881, p. 442).
“A bird’s nest may contain from two to ten snares in different parts, and usually is put up in thick underwood and thicket, so that as many as possible of the birds may be taken. The snare is baited with food, and so may capture a great variety of birds, but mostly birds of the same family are taken at the same time, and by the same person.” (Hutchinson 1881, p. 444)
Bird hunting was illegal from 1883 to 1892, and snaring became associated with bird dogging by 1882 (Hutchinson 1881, p. 444). By 1895 the term ‘bird dogging’ had become more specific and associated with traps placed on wires or wires stretched across land.
Bird dogging took place in large or small numbers. The term ‘dogger’ originated in England to describe a large group of local men who were doing this kind of work. In Scotland it’s the term doggin’, meaning ‘setting up baited snares’. In Ireland, however, the term used was ‘dogging’.
Some of these men organised themselves into ‘doggie clubs’, which had the same purpose as the doggie clubs that became so popular in England. They took an active part in the Bird Preservation movement and some had a keen interest in ornithology. They were also a part of what was called the ‘Wild Game Protection Association’. This was a private organisation formed to stop poaching of game birds, such as pheasants, grouse, etc.
The word ‘dogging’ gained currency in Ireland, Scotland and the UK in the late 1800s and is still in common usage. A ‘dogger’ may be as small as one person, or as big as a whole gang of men who catch the birds by the hundreds.
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