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Two lambs having their tails docked by the use of rubber rings. The tight rubber rings block blood flow to the lower portion of the tail, which will atrophy and fall off.

Docking is used as a term for the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or ears. The term cropping is also used, more commonly in reference to the docking of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail. The term tailing is also commonly used. The stump of the tail commonly is known as the dock.



Originally, most docking was done for practical purposes. For example, a large horse used for hauling large loads might have its tail docked to prevent it from becoming entangled in tow ropes or harnesses; without docking, it could be dangerous to the horse, and very painful if the tail were tangled, and inconvenient to the owner to tie up the horse's tail for every use.

Agricultural practice

A lamb in Australia which, unusually, has not had its tail docked.

Tail docking may be performed on livestock for a variety of reasons.

In the case of domestic pigs, where commercially raised animals are kept in close quarters, tail docking is performed to prevent injury or to prevent animals from chewing or biting each others' tails.

Many breeds of sheep have their tails docked to reduce fly strike.[1] Also used for this purpose is Mulesing.

While tail docking is an effective preventive method in some cases, if it is not carried out correctly it may result in other problems such as rectal prolapse.[2]

Depending on the animal and the culture, docking may be done by cutting (knife or other blade), searing (gas or electrically heated searing iron), or constriction methods, ie. rubber ring elastration.[1]

As with docking of dogs, it has been identified that this practice contributes to masking underlying shortcoming of a breed, which - if docking were not the general practice - would be countered through selective breeding of animals where the tail does not lead to medical problems.


As with other domesticated animals there is a long history of docking the tails of dogs. It is understood to date at least to the Roman empire.

The most popular reason for docking dog breeds is to prevent injury to working dogs. For instance, it has been stated that a vermin's bite to the working dog's flop ears can lead to a systemic infection, a serious medical problem that wouldn't occur were there no flop ears to be bitten.

In hunting dogs, the tail is docked to prevent it from getting cut up as the dog wags its tail in the brush.

This is contested by a wide range of groups and is often considered a form of animal cruelty and torture. This has led to the practice being outlawed and made illegal throughout many countries, in some of which dogs are no longer bred for work, or used as working animals.

For example, in United Kingdom tail docking was originally undertaken largely by dog breeders. However, in 1991, the UK government amended the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966)[3], prohibiting the docking of dog's tails by lay persons from 1 July 1993[4]. Only veterinary surgeons were, by law, allowed to dock.

However, following the passage of the law, the Council of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons in November 1992, ruled docking to be unethical, "unless for therapeutic or acceptable prophylactic reasons". The requirement in which the Royal College considers prophylactic docking to be acceptable are so strict as to make the routine docking of puppies by veterinary surgeons extremely difficult. Vets who continue to dock risk disciplinary action, and can be removed from the professional register.

Those found guilty of unlawful docking would face a fine of up to £20,000, up to 51 weeks imprisonment or both.

They can only dock the tail of "working" dogs (in some specific cases) - e.g. hunting dogs that work in areas thick in brambles and heavy vegetation where the dog's tail can get caught and cause injury to the dog.

In 1987 European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, established by Council of Europe has prohibited docking.

Also, Norway completely banned the practice in 1987.

Other countries where docking is banned: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Virgin Island.

Manx Cats

The tail on a tailed or stumpy (partial tailed) Manx is sometimes docked at birth to prevent arthritis to which the cats' partial tails are prone, as a preventative measure[5]. Such arthritis can cause the cat extreme pain.


Cattle on large Australian cattle stations often have the tail brush (not the dock) cut shorter (banged) before their release to indicate those having been counted, treated, their current pregnancy status etc. This is termed a 'bang-tail muster’ and those with long tails have not previously been counted.


  1. ^ a b Primary Industries Ministerial Council (2006). "The Sheep - Second Edition". Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals. CSIRO Publishing. Retrieved 2007-01-09.  
  2. ^
  3. ^ Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Office of Public Sector Information
  4. ^ Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Schedule 3 Amendment) Order 1991 Office of Public Sector Information
  5. ^ Manx FAQ from Cat Fancier's Mailing List

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