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Wrangling rats
Barn hunt planned at arena
Louanne Burrows gets an enthusiastic signal Bruin as the Low Country Rat Wranglers Barn Hunt Club trains for the upcoming event at the Bulloch County Agricultural Complex.

An unusual event planned this month at the Bulloch County Agricultural Arena is open to any breed of dog that can sniff out a rat.

The Lowcountry Rat Wranglers Barn Hunt Club is hosting the two-day event Jan. 18–19, said club president Leslie Sprando.

A barn hunt features handlers and their dogs competing to see who is best at finding rats. The rats, which are pets and are never harmed, are placed in ventilated PVC tubes, which are hidden among tunnels of hay bales.

There are other tubes as well — some empty, some with used bedding from rat cages. As the level of competition increases, the empty tubes are eventually eliminated. The dogs must seek out the tubes containing the rats, and when an owner sees his or her dog indicate a rat is found, he or she calls out, Sprando said.

Dogs are judged on accuracy, and they must locate the rat within a certain time.

The dogs are not allowed to tip or pick up the tubes, and great care is taken to protect the rats. The rodents used in this competition belong to a woman in Savannah and are curly-coated “beloved pets,” she said.

If there are openings, people can sign up the day of the trials, but registration must be done by 7:30 a.m., she said. So far, about 80 dogs are registered for the Saturday, Jan. 18, trials, with about 70 signed up for Sunday, Jan. 19.

There will be two trials each day. There is no admission fee to watch. Any size or breed of dog is eligible to participate, and the cost to enter is $30, she said.

The Barn Hunt Association and the Lowcountry Rat Wranglers Barn Hunt Club were formed so dogs of any breed could compete, as other clubs limit the competitors to certain breeds, Sprando said. To register, interested parties can visit the Barn Hunt Association’s website at

According to the site, barn hunts are a “new and quickly growing dog sport catching fire across the country … based on the traditional roles of many breeds in ridding farms, barns, crop storage areas, and homes of destructive vermin.”

Barn hunt competitions have “titles, levels of increasing difficulty, and championships,” the site states. Barn hunts are an independent sport, but titles are recognized by the American Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club. 


Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.

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