Docking (animal)

Docking is the intentional removal of part of an animal's tail or, sometimes, ears. The term cropping is more commonly used in reference to the cropping of ears, while docking more commonly—but not exclusively—refers to the tail. The term tailing is also commonly used. The term arises because the living flesh of the tail, from which the animal's tail hairs grow, commonly is known as the dock.

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


Lamb - no docking
A lamb in Australia which has not had its tail docked. Tail docking for sheep is, on the contrary, common there.
Sheep management, breeds and judging for schools; a textbook for the shepherd and student (1920) (14773224452)
A lamb about to be docked (1920). According to the source, "There is more than one way to dock lambs. Their tails may be cut off with a sharp jack-knife. It used to be the custom to chop them off on a block by means of a chisel and mallet."

Many breeds of sheep have their tails docked to reduce the buildup of faeces which can encourage fly strike.[1][2] Also used for this purpose is mulesing. Docking also makes it easier to view a grown ewe's udders to detect potential problems.

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 ill thrift[3] or rectal prolapse. In lambs, tail docking at the distal end of the caudal folds tends to minimize docking effects on incidence of rectal prolapse.[4] Docking at that length has been recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.[5] In the UK the law states that for sheep docked tails should at a minimum cover the anus in male lambs, and the vulva in female lambs.[6] These minimum lengths are also recommended in Canada[7]

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, i.e. rubber ring elastration.[1] The Canadian Veterinary Medical Association indicates that pain, stress, recovery time and complications associated with docking of livestock will be minimized by docking when animals are under one week of age.[8] However, docking of lambs within 24 hours of birth is not recommended, as it may interfere with ingestion of colostrum and/or formation of the maternal bond.[9] In the UK the law requires that docking on sheep using constriction methods must be performed within the first week of the animal's life.[10] The UK Farm Animal Welfare Council has noted that this limitation can be problematic in management of hill flocks where normal practice is to handle lambs as little as possible during the first week "to avoid mis-mothering, mis-adventure and injury."[9]


Dog smelling for truffles in Mons, Var
Dog with partially docked tail sniffing for truffles

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. 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[11] and is sometimes considered a form of animal cruelty.[12] 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),[13] prohibiting the docking of dogs' tails by lay persons from 1 July 1993.[14] 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. Docking was banned in England and Wales by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 and in Scotland by the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006.

In 1987 the European Convention for the Protection of Pet Animals, established by Council of Europe, prohibited docking for non-medical reasons, though signatory countries are free to opt out of this provision, and almost half of them have done so. Norway completely banned the practice in 1987. Other countries where docking is banned include Australia[15] and the United Kingdom.[16]


Polo pony docked
Docked and banged tail on a polo pony, photographed between 1910 and 1915

Originally, most docking was done for practical purposes. For example, a draft horse used for hauling large loads might have had its tail docked to prevent it from becoming entangled in tow ropes, farm machinery, or harness; without docking, it could be dangerous to the horse, painful if the tail were tangled, and inconvenient to the owner to tie up the horse's tail for every use.[17]

In modern use, the term usually does not refer to tail amputation as it does with some dog breeds. However, historically, docking was performed on some horses, often as foals. The practice has been banned in some nations, but is still seen on some show and working draft horses in some places, and is practiced at some PMU operations.[18]

In modern times, the term "docked" or "docking" in reference to the tail of a horse generally refers to the practice of cutting the hair of the tail skirt very short, just past the end of the natural dock of the tail. In particular, the tail is often cut short to keep it from being tangled in a harness.


Tail docking of dairy cows is prevalent in some regions. Some anecdotal reports have suggested that such docking may reduce SCC (somatic cell counts in milk) and occurrence of mastitis. However, a study examining such issues found no significant effect of docking on SCC or mastitis frequency or on four measures of cow cleanliness.[19] Although it has been suggested that leptospirosis among dairy farm workers might be reduced by docking cows' tails, a study found that milkers' leptospiral titers were not related to tail docking.[20] The American Veterinary Medical Association opposes "routine tail docking of cattle."[21] Similarly, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association opposes docking tails of dairy cattle.[22]

Cattle on large Australian cattle stations often have the tail brush (not the dock) cut shorter (banged) before their release; this "bang-tail muster" indicates those having been counted, treated, their current pregnancy status determined, etc.

Tail docking in the dairy industry is prohibited in Denmark, Germany, Scotland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and some Australian states,[23] as well as California, Ohio, and Rhode Island.[24] Several large organizations within the dairy industry are against tail docking[25][26] because of the lack of scientific evidence supporting claims benefiting the practice. Scientific studies have demonstrated that there are numerous animal welfare issues with this practice (such as distress, pain, increased activity in pain receptors in the tail stump, abnormal growths of nerve fibers, sensitivity to heat and cold, and clostridial diseases). Fortunately, there is an effective and humane alternative to tail docking, which is switch trimming.[27]


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 other's tails.

See also


  1. ^ a b Primary Industries Ministerial Council (2006). The Sheep - Second Edition. Model Code of Practice for the Welfare of Animals. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0-643-09357-5. Retrieved 2007-01-09.
  2. ^ French, N. P., R. Wall and K. L. Morgan. 1994. Lamb tail docking: a controlled field study of the effects of tail amputation on health and productivity. Vet. Rec. 124: 463-467.
  3. ^ Giadinis, N. D., Loukopoulos, P., Tsakos, P., Kritsepi-Konstantinou, M., Kaldrymidou, E., and Karatzias, H. Illthrift in suckling lambs attributed to lung pyogranuloma formation. Veterinary Record, 165: 348-350, 2009.
  4. ^ Thomas, D. L., D. F. Waldron, G. D. Lowe, D. G. Morrical, H. H. Meyer, R. A. High, Y. M. Berger, D. D. Clevenger, G. E. Fogle, R. G. Gottfredson, S. C. Loerch, K. E. McClure. T. D. Willingham, D. L. Zartman and R. D. Zelinsky. 2008. Length of docked tail and the incidence of rectal prolapse in lambs. J. Anim. Sci. 81: 2725-2762.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-08. Retrieved 2012-07-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ UK Defra Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock. Page 14. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2011-12-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  7. ^ CARC. 1995. Recommended code of practice for the care and handling of sheep. Canadian Agri-Food Research Council, Ottawa. 37 pp.
  8. ^ "Castration, Tail Docking, Dehorning of Farm Animals". Archived from the original on 2006-03-05.
  9. ^ a b FAWC. 2008. FAWC report on the implications of castration and tail docking for the welfare of lambs. Farm Animal Welfare Council, London. 31 pp.
  10. ^ UK Defra Code of Recommendations for the Welfare of Livestock. Page 13. "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-26. Retrieved 2011-12-14.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  11. ^ Welfare Implications of Tail Docking-Dogs Archived February 25, 2014, at the Wayback Machine American Veterinary Medical Association
  12. ^ Ear-Cropping and Tail-Docking People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
  13. ^ Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 Office of Public Sector Information
  14. ^ Veterinary Surgeons Act 1966 (Schedule 3 Amendment) Order 1991 Office of Public Sector Information
  15. ^ "Is the tail docking of dogs legal?". RSPCA Australia Knowledgebase. RSPCA. 2010-08-03. Archived from the original on 2011-02-20. Retrieved 2011-02-15.
  16. ^ "Tail docking of dogs". British Veterinary Association. BVA. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  17. ^ "Horse Tail Modifications" (PDF).
  18. ^ "Tail Docking in Heavy Horses." Livestock Welfare INSIGHTS Issue 4 - Jun 2003 Archived 2010-11-24 at the Wayback Machine web page accessed September 1, 2008
  19. ^ Tucker, C. B., D. Fraser and D. M. Weary. 2001. Tail docking dairy cattle: effects on cow cleanliness and udder health. J. Dairy Sci. 84: 84-87.
  20. ^ Stull, C. L., M. A. Payne, S. L. Berry and P. J. Hullinger. 2002. Evaluation of the scientific justification for tail docking in dairy cattle. J. Amer. Vet. Med. Assoc. 220: 1298-1303.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-06-18. Retrieved 2012-07-11.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  22. ^ "Tail Docking of Dairy Cattle". Archived from the original on 2011-04-14.
  23. ^ "Tail Docking of Cattle" (PDF).
  24. ^ "Welfare Issues with Tail Docking of Cows in the Dairy Industry" (PDF).
  25. ^ "TAIL DOCKING OF DAIRY CATTLE – POSITION STATEMENT". Canadian Veterinary Medical Association.
  26. ^ "Tail Docking of Cattle". AVMA.
  27. ^ "An HSUS Report: Welfare Issues with Tail Docking of Cows in the Dairy Industry" (PDF). October 2012.

External links

  • Media related to Docking at Wikimedia Commons

Coccygectomy is a surgical procedure in which the coccyx or tailbone is removed. It is considered a required treatment for sacrococcygeal teratoma and other germ cell tumors arising from the coccyx. Coccygectomy is the treatment of last resort for coccydynia (coccyx pain) which has failed to respond to nonsurgical treatment. Non surgical treatments include use of seat cushions, external or internal manipulation and massage of the coccyx and the attached muscles, medications given by local injections under fluoroscopic guidance, and medications by mouth.To remove the coccyx, an incision is made from the tip of the coccyx to its joint with the sacrum. The coccyx is cut away from the surrounding tissues, cut off at the joint with the sacrum, and removed. If the tip of the sacrum is rough, it is filed down. The wound is closed in layers.

Crop (disambiguation)

A crop is a plant grown and harvested for agricultural use.

Crop may also refer to:

Crop (anatomy), a dilation of the esophagus that stores and softens food

Crop (implement), a modified whip used in horseback riding or disciplining humans as punishment

Crop factor, a multiplier factor in digital imaging, compared to 35mm film camera focal length

Crop (hairstyle), a woman's short hairstyle

CROP (polling firm), a Canadian polling and market research company

Cropping (punishment), the removal of a person's ears as a punishment

Cropping (animal), cutting the ears of an animal shorter, usually trimming to shape the pinnae

Cropping (image), to remove unwanted outer parts of an image

Scrapbooking, also called cropping, the creation of cards and or scrap-books in unique and creative ways as a hobby

The Crop, a 2004 Australian comedy film

"The Crop" (short story), a 1947 short story by Flannery O'ConnorCROP may also stand for:

Council of Regional Organisations in the Pacific

Church Rural Overseas Program, a former initiative of Church World Service, whose name survives in CWS' CROP Walk fundraising events

Cropping (animal)

Cropping is the removal of part or all of the pinnae or auricles, the external visible flap of the ear and earhole, of an animal; it sometimes involves taping to make the ears pointy. Most commonly performed on dogs, it is an ancient practice that was once done for perceived health, practical or cosmetic reasons. In modern times, it is banned in many nations, but is still legal in a limited number of countries. Where permitted, it is seen only in certain breeds of dog such as the Pit bull, Miniature Pinscher, German Pinscher, Doberman Pinscher, Schnauzer, Great Dane, Boxer, Caucasian Shepherd Dog and Beauceron.

The veterinary procedure is known as cosmetic otoplasty. Current veterinary science provides no medical or physical advantage to the animal from the procedure, leading to concerns over animal cruelty related to performing unnecessary surgery on the animals. In addition to the bans in place in countries around the world, it is described in some veterinary texts as "no longer considered ethical."Cropping of large portions of the pinnae of other animals is rare, although the clipping of identifying shapes in the pinnae of livestock, called earmarks, was common prior to the introduction of compulsory ear tags. Removal of portions of the ear of laboratory mice for identification, i.e. ear-notching, is still used. The practice of cropping for cosmetic purposes is rare in non-canines, although some selectively bred animals have naturally small ears which can be mistaken for cropping.


Elastration (a portmanteau of "elastic" and "castration") is a bloodless method of male castration and docking commonly used for livestock. Elastration is simply banding the body part (scrotum or tail) until it drops off. This method is favored for its simplicity, low cost, and minimal training requirements.


A venomoid is a venomous snake that has undergone a surgical procedure to remove or inhibit the production of snake venom. This procedure has been used for venomous snakes kept as pets or used in public demonstrations in order to remove the risk of injury or death when handled. The removal of venom glands or fangs of exhibited animals may be by surgery or simple mutilation; some or all of these procedures have been considered illegal and unethical. Removal of fangs is uncommon, as snakes frequently regenerate teeth, and the more invasive procedure of removing the underlying maxillary bone would be fatal. Most venomoid procedures consist of either removing the venom gland itself, or severing the duct between the gland and the fang. However, the duct and gland have been known to regenerate, and supposedly "safe" snakes have killed mice and successfully envenomated humans.Advocates of this procedure state that it is done for safety reasons and have published methods for this surgery. However, this procedure is highly controversial among herpetologists, and is considered animal cruelty by many experts on venomous snakes, particularly in reference to the procedure being performed by unlicensed hobbyists with inadequate analgesia. For instance, a veterinarian review on reptile surgery published in 2006 stated that "such practices should be discouraged" due to both ethical and animal welfare concerns.Legal questions have been raised about amateur venomoid surgeries, since the Australian 1986 Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act states that animals must be anesthetized for the duration of an operation. In 2007, the Victoria state government amended the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1986 to ban the removal of venom glands from snakes unless performed for a therapeutic reason by a registered veterinarian. In addition, a 2008 tribunal ruled that venomoid snakes cannot be handled by members of the public in Victoria, due to the risk of the venom glands regrowing.


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