Monday, September 20, 2010

The fox and the terrier

On Sunday there was a fox hunt in the woods and vineyards that surround our house. When the fox population gets too large it becomes a public nuisance; wild foxes prey on game and domestic animals alike. Official hunts are organized periodically to thin down the population. So on Sunday, several hunters showed up around seven-thirty in the morning and took up their positions along the road that runs out through the vineyard. After about an hour we could hear dogs barking and a few gunshots here and there. And a few hours later, the hunters went home for lunch.

The drainage pipe runs parallel to our road along the base of the hedge.

Sometime after lunch, a new crew of people that we did not recognize took up positions along the road, not out in the vineyard, but close to the houses and right outside our kitchen window. I noticed one of our neighbors outside in an argument with one of them. He was on his hands and knees with his head stuck into her hedge. "Go away," she said. "I don't want you here." I went downstairs to see what was going on and if I could help.

Ears to the ground, listening for the muffled sounds of a barking terrier.

"Madame," I heard him say, "I'm in the public right-of-way and I have the right to be here." But why was he there? Our neighbor was upset. Then I noticed that there were about six or seven guys and a couple of women up and down our road, all looking very concerned and busy. I asked one of them what was up.

The digging begins. The other terriers listen from their cages on a trailer.

A fox, he told me. A fox had crawled into the drainage pipe along our road and one of their dogs, a fox terrier, had followed it in. They needed to get it out. Them out. The fox and the dog. I walked up the road to where the drainage pipe starts and I could hear a dog's bark coming from inside. That was a very weird sound.

I went into the house and got the camera. I asked the guys if they minded if I took pictures. "Pictures for what, for whom?" they asked. I said for me. One guy said that it was ok, but as soon as they got the fox out, there were going to kill it, to faire l'affaire is how he put it, and that I shouldn't take pictures of that. Ken said I should have told him that I was in the public right-of-way and I had the right to be there.

One of the guys explaining things to a small crowd of neighbors that gathered to watch.

After a while it was clear that the dog and his quarry had moved farther down the pipe and were right in front of our neighbors' house. I could hear the muffled barking of the dog from under the ground. That was a very strange sound. The guys were calling the dog and putting their ears down to the ground to try to hear where the dog was.

The guy is green is calling into the pipe, giving the dog instructions to push the fox on further.

Then they started digging. They opened up a hole near to where the barking was coming from. They succeeded in moving the animals farther down the pipe with the help of un hérisson, a wire brush like what's used for chimney sweeping, attached to a long flexible pole. Not far from where they dug there is what's called un regard, a kind of mini manhole that opens into the pipe. The guy stationed there saw the fox go by and the dog following it. He managed to grab hold of one of the dog's legs and pulled it out of the pipe.

And the dog is out! But where is the fox?

It was a little tiny fox terrier named Hugo, just doing his job. He was filthy brown from being inside the pipe. And he drank a bunch of water after his several hours having cornered a fox. But all was not finished. The guys were not about to let the fox go, and it had made its way further down the pipe. They kept at it. And Hugo was running around barking into the holes. At one point I thought they had let him go back in, but I'm not sure about that.

Little Hugo was tired and dirty, but not the least bit frazzled. He was just doing his job.

I have no idea whether they got the fox or not. I was very happy that the dog was safe and stopped paying attention to the whole thing after he came out of the pipe. I figure that, at some point, you just have to say that the fox has won and let him go for another day.


  1. That's country life we big city folks miss. Thanks for telling this tail, sorry tale. ;)

  2. What a good story. I love the last picture. The way the man is holding Hugo away from him tells me he probably ponged a bit !!

    Half of me hopes the fox got away but the other half knows that they are a menace, especially for anyone who keeps ducks and chickens.

  3. Walt,
    What did Callie think of all this?

  4. I just hope that small fox made it safely somewhere. People don't understand wild life is very important for the well being of everybody. What would we do without wild life? A sanitized world?

  5. What a fun story! I sure hope they got the fox out. If it ends up dying in the pipe it may cause upstream flooding, then you'd REALLY hear your neighbors complaining.

  6. What a story and right in your backyard. The dog is so cute, dirt and all.

  7. Oh, man... I guess I understand that they have to deal with the fox population, but it's hard to think of that little creature's last hours feeling petrified... then finally caught and killed (I assume).

    Are these dogs called Fox Terriers because of their role in chasing foxes? I didn't know they were used that way.


  8. i worry about my cats being out at night with foxes & coyotes about....i feel sorry for the doggie stuck in the pipe but i guess he was doing the job he was born to do

  9. Oh boy, I don't like this story one little bit.

  10. Poor puppy! Great post.

    We had a Fox Terrier named Willy and did he ever cause trouble. It must be that breed. His particular foe was opossums. The foxes are eating all the domestic cats in our neighborhood. I think we need a hunt too.

  11. I did not know fox hunts still occurred. This was a fascinating read.

  12. This would make an excellent 'faits divers' in the 'Saint-Aignan Tribune', or whatever your local paper is called! :) Martine

  13. peter, very country. But I don't think the tale was sorry, except maybe from the fox's point of view.

    jean, I'll bet he did! I know there is a fox problem in England, especially around London, these days.

    leon, Callie watch intently from inside the yard, behind the gate. She barked a little when someone got too close and then again when they put the trailer with the other terriers right outside the gate.

    chm, there's plenty of wildlife; don't worry. If there are too many foxes, they start killing chickens and ducks.

    cubby, no kidding!

    rick, they have stubby little legs for getting down and dirty inside fox dens. Very cute.

    judy, yes, I think they were bred to hunt foxes, or at least to help dig them out of their dens.

    anon, we wondered if it was really a fox or a cat or maybe even a badger. But the guys verified that it was a fox.

    nadege, that's life in the country!

    alewis, no dogs were harmed in the making of this story. I can't speak for the foxes...

    starman, they are handsome animals, but they can cause a lot of trouble.

    suzanne, good luck!

    michael, it's not the kind of fox hunt you see in movies about England. Here it's just the guys and their guns and dogs. No horses. No "tally-ho's," no fancy clothes.

    martine, ha! Good idea!

  14. I heard about your blog via fox terrier owners who somehow found this post. We all have the same dogs as shown in your photos and were amazed they were used in this way. They are wire fox terriers by the way - named so for their hard wiry coats. The name Terrier means earth becos they go to ground to catch and rat out prey but primary RATS and MICE and small critters - I have never heard them used to hunt fox - usually those are fox hounds who do that job. Love your blog, will book mark.
    Daniella and Axel (wire fox who would probably run from a fox!)

  15. Like Dani, I saw your post via Ami and Linda, and had to check it out. We have two wire fox terriers -- and I've always wondered whether they are somehow being deprived from "doing their job" by living in suburban South Florida where foxes are few and far between and, even if they were plentiful, probably not to be taken to ground by two pups.

    I once lived in France so, now that I've found you, will be back.

    Joan (and Jake and Just Harry)


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