About the book;
During 2014 my good friend Ian (Pud) Barnfather contacted me, asking if it would be possible for me to take some images of his terriers working on rats. Puds requirement was not a huge problem you might think and certainly not a demand outside the realms of photographing possibilities, but Puds request was to take images mainly at night with the aid of artificial lamps. Therefore, after my initial apprehension subsided and normal speech was restored, I cagily accepted the challenge, and what a challenge it was to be.
From a time of enthusiasm and youth, I have always been a running dog man, my eyes fixed on a distant horizon where a black lurcher bitch jinked and twisted on the back of a strong Northumbrian hare. My expertise lies in the field of all round lurchers, then later, working pure bred Scottish deerhounds. I have never actually owned a terrier in any form or guise, so the organisation around what terriers we were going to use was left to Ian, the co producer of this book. Pud has owned and worked many terriers for decades, and has built up a network of other terrier men, experienced hunting folk from who we drew many of the resources we needed.
By dint of nature, I bath in an ocean of diversity rather than puddle of single-mindedness. In my life, I have tried almost everything on Mother Nature’s countryside menu. With a type of quixotic mania I have immersed myself in all forms of country sports and pastimes, so this new bizarre sounding scheme wasn’t going to be tossed aside by any negative “it cant be done attitude”
My early photographic attempts were as I expected, poor. The lack of available light greatly affected the overall image quality, and the faster shutter speeds required to stop motion could not be attained in such lightless environments. However, not being a one to be beaten, with fits and starts of ideas spinning around in my brain and after much practice with my camera at home in darkened rooms or in my garden when daylights curtains had been drawn, I finally saw some light at the end of the tunnel so to speak, resulting in some decent images. I changed to flash photography as an option to help obtain optimum results, and this did lead to improvements in quality.
Akin to daffodils in spring the quality grew and flowered, gradually improving to the point where we were now getting some acceptable images that I was willing to show to other photographer friends, and pictures worthy of furnishing the pages in the ratting lads prized photo albums. I am a hard taskmaster, a reflector and always very critical of my work. Once it became evident to me that obtaining good quality ratting images at night could possibly be done, I said to Pud “Yes, we can go for it, I can do it” I do not make false claims.
With the quality increasingly flourishing on every trip out, and a high percentage of images to keep (keepers) came ideas of what else could we do with these hunting images, a portfolio that was increasing weekly. Pud and I discussed a plan for a book, and thoughts came flooding in like a spring tide on Cambois beach as we planned such a manuscripts potential, including the possibly of featuring not only one breed of terriers, but a myriad of breeds and crosses. The initial idea was to collate a large number of quality images to illustrate what these little hunting dogs are capable of, classy images the likes of which have rarely been seen before in print.
It has been said “an image is worth a thousand words, and a good image should tell a story”. If this were so, then the manuscript we had in our minds eyes would weigh a ton and would have a tale for many that will be never ending.
We employed the services of many lads with different types of terriers, hunting boys from Northumberland, Durham and many other further afield geographical locations to come and join us on our epic journey.
We have co-produced this book to show the quality of different breeds, and indeed different individual terriers as hunters of rats. The images you are about to see are designed to capture the very essence of these fearless dogs chasing and catching this rodent, as well as images showing the dogs in various situations during their nights graft.
Some of our images have been adapted and cropped to give a better association to the subjects. The dog’s abilities and rat catching prowess, and the expressions and actions of the rats in their last few seconds on this earth, as their death screams ring out into the eerie darkness. These quintessence’s may become evident as you gaze deeply into the soul of each image.
Without words a book is not a book, it becomes an album of pictures. This is not what we wanted. So we have written where required, stories or information to underpin our hard-earned images. This also is not a “how to kill rats book” as again this was never a part of the greater scheme of things. People reading will most probably be well aware of how to do this, and some may have followed this pastime for decades. It would be an insult to many folk to attempt to re-write the fundamentals of rat catching with dogs. The actual how to of killing rats with dogs is left to you the reader, some of the true experts.
We want this book to classed as a “good read” A book to entertain, whether this is from gazing in ore of the images, or from enjoying the written stories that unfold. The book is not, an instructional manual. This is a book that hopefully an enthusiast can sit with and enjoy, to be unable to put down. To be willing to go back to time after time and to drool at the quality of the pictorial soul of the book, and journey with us through what is documented. A book to act as a record, for our future people to relate to.
As suggested the focus of the book is primarily rat hunting at night, but we have also enjoyed some rousing days sport when the echoing call of a disturbed cock pheasant replaces the low piping hoot of the owl. Where daytime forays have taken place, we have again added some images, and a synopsis of the event for you to take pleasure and interest in.
Where possible we have included details about individual dogs, some of their history and their ancestry. The owners have not been forgotten either, so anything interesting and relevant has also been incorporated.
All-in-all we hope that we have created a book that you, the reader will enjoy. A book refreshingly different in so many ways to those you may have already read. A book that will proudly adorn your personal library of hunting and countryside books for years to come. Get prepared; you are about to journey into farms, stables, chicken sheds, derelict buildings, woods and fields of Northumberland, Durham and the Scottish borders with the Border ratting team.
So please, put on your seat-belts, sit back and enjoy the ride.
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