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Badger-baiting, Or, Where "Wiener Dogs" Came From

"Badger-baiting" is a barbaric blood sport in which humans set a dog (or sometimes multiple dogs) upon a captured badger and gamble on which side will win.

In the classic version of this "sport," a badger is captured in the wild (often having been pulled straight from its burrow using specially made "badger tongs"), and is placed in an artificially recreated burrow in an enclosed pen. A dog is then placed in the pen and urged to go down into the hole. Spectators then place bets and breathlessly wait to see which animal emerges alive.

Although badgers are actually normally quite docile creatures, they become fierce when cornered. Possessed of sharp teeth and huge claws actually designed for digging, the badger is usually more than a match for a dog, which is why multiple dogs are sometimes used, or sometimes the badger is purposely injured in some way beforehand as a handicap.

Badger-baiting was an extremely popular sport all across Europe in early modern times, and several breeds of dogs were specifically bred for battling the badger, most notably the dachshund (literally, "badger dog" in German). However, the practice declined in the 19th century with the rise of animal cruelty laws, the increasing scarcity of badgers, and larger shifts in popular attitudes toward blood sports.

But unfortunately, it cannot be said that this practice has died out completely. Success at badger-baiting was still required of champion terriers by the Irish Kennel Club until 1968, and reports of badger-baiting in rural areas still surface from time to time. Rural England, in particular, has seen numerous incidents of illegal badger-baiting in recent years, ultimately forcing the British government to pass the The Protection of Badgers Act of 1992.

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