Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.Selous Scouts "Pamwe Chete" title block.Ospery, the bird of the Selous Scouts.
































  1. Tracking plays a special and very important part in maintaining contact with the enemy, in locating their camps and hides, and in following up after a contact or an incident.
  2. Without considerable practical experience no man can become an expert, but with a little basic knowledge, well applied, most men can become "bush minded." As bushcraft, which includes the ability to track, is essentially a practical subject, no amount of theorizing can make an expert. Practice in the field is essential. As with most skills, bushcraft must become an automatic action which will be of the greatest value in actual operations.
  3. The aim of this chapter is to give some guidance to troops employed in ATOPS in the techniques of tracking.


  1. To assist troops in the tracking of individuals or bands of enemy, some suggested techniques are listed below.
  2. Action on finding tracks.
    1. Unless it is possible to follow the spoor with either a civilian tracker or a tracker team, anyone finding spoor should isolate the scene and keep that area free of military forces until the arrival of trackers. An immediate report should be made to higher headquarters giving the following information:
      1. Estimated number of terrorists.
      2. Estimated age of spoor.
      3. Direction.
      4. Any other useful information such as location, terrain, type of tracks, etc.
    2. It is absolutely essential that the spoor is not obliterated or disturbed by the discoverers. The spoor and surrounding area must remain untouched until the arrival of a tracker or tracker team. It is not possible to follow one preserved spoor when the remainder of the area has been trampled flat by military forces.
    3. It frequently pays to backtrack when very fresh tracks are found, particularly early in the morning when they may lead from a camp.
  3. Action when tracking.
    1. Work in pairs when possible.
    2. Use a pointer to indicate the tracks. This can be a stick or even a rifle.
    3. When a trail is faint, leapfrog the trackers.
    4. The tracker who has the run of a track must keep on it and only change when the run is broken.
    5. In the interests of speed, track ahead where possible and not at your feet.
    6. Depending on conditions, use ground or aerial tracking, but if possible, use aerial tracking for speed.
    7. Think ahead and listen for bird and game alarms which could indicate movement or presence of humans ahead.
    8. Bear in mind minor details which aid tracking, e.g., sand on rocks, overturned leaves, etc.
    9. Patrol members not employed with the actual tracking will adopt an open formation and be on the alert for enemy action.
    10. The person or persons doing the tracking most at all times be protected by members of the patrol.
    11. Tracking in overcast weather and around midday will be difficult due to lack of shadow which gives depth.
    12. Track by "feeling" over dead leaves on damp ground for indentations if all else fails.
    13. Do not talk -- communicate by means of hand signals.
    14. To ascertain whether gangs are in the area, look for signs at fruit- bearing trees, water holes, trapping sites, beehives or observation points. Also watch for signs of fires, particularly in the early morning or late evening.
    15. If the track suddenly becomes well-hidden but not lost, circle downwind and try to pick up scent, smoke or firelight, especially at night.
    16. Be constantly aware of the possibility of trickery or deception; for example, men turning towards water, then going from tree to tree in the opposite direction; hiding underwater or underground in a wild animals burrow; shoes tied on backwards; grass bent back; walking backwards or on the side of the feet; or tying cattle hooves onto the shoes or feet.
    17. Study the enemy's habits at every opportunity.
  4. Action should the trail split. Trackers must be trained to report immediately to the patrol commander any attempt by the enemy to split up. The patrol commander then decides, on the advice of the tracker, which track will be followed. The splitting point should be marked so that the trackers can return to it and, if necessary, start again. To assist the trackers in picking up the tracks again a few hints are listed below:
    1. Examine any logs, stones, etc., in the immediate vicinity of the track for sign of disturbance.
    2. Examine leaves and grass on either side of the track for signs of disturbance.
    3. Attempts at deception, unless done by an expert, will often give a clearer indication of where the track is located.
  5. Action when the track is lost.

    When the track is lost, the leading tracker should indicate that he has reached the last visible sign of the track he is following. Trackers must be trained never to pass beyond this point without first informing the patrol commander of its exact location. A simple drill for the search is:

    1. Leading tracker halts the patrol and indicates the position of the last visible sign to the patrol commander.
    2. The sign is marked for future reference.
    3. Flank trackers do a circular cast working towards one another in the hope of picking up the spoor again.
    4. While the flank trackers are carrying out the search as described above, the tracker who was on the spoor carries out a 360-degree search up to approximately 15 meters to his immediate front.
    5. Once the spoor has been relocated, the tracker who found the spoor then takes over as main tracker. The remainder of the team fall into an appropriate tracker formation.
  6. Use of aircraft for tracking.
    1. a. Light aircraft and/or helicopters can actively assist patrols during the tracking of terrorist groups by:
      1. Spotting terrorists from the air, bearing in mind that the terrorists are likely to take cover on hearing aircraft. Aircraft may also break security and indicate to terrorists that they are being followed.
      2. Slowing down the terrorists as they attempt to keep under cover, thereby enabling the trackers to close with them.
    2. Visual air reconnaissance will provide valuable information concerning the nature of the country ahead of the follow-up group. This information should enable the patrol to assess:
      1. Likely routes taken by terrorists.
      2. Ambush positions.
      3. Camps.
    3. Helicopters may be used to uplift trackers in the leapfrog role (explained in greater detail in Section 4 of Chapter 8: Follow-up Operations).


  1. Detailed below are a number of points which should be taken into consideration:
    1. Think when moving. Do not relax.
    2. Do not become regular in habit.
    3. Avoid the obvious.
    4. Watch the nature of the country carefully and use types of ground which are difficult to track in.
    5. Use weather to advantage, that is, move in rain.
    6. Carry a stick with which to bend grass and branches back.
    7. On special operations, to increase deception, wear smooth-soled shoes which leave less distinctive prints, or go barefoot or use motor-tire sandals.
    8. Walk on the side of the foot when necessary as this leaves no heel or toe marks.
    9. Cross tracks, roads or streams by crossing in trees or on rocks. if this is not possible when crossing a wide sandy track or road, cross at one place, each man stepping carefully on the footprints of the leading man, thereby leaving only one set of prints.
    10. Be careful with Smokey fires, tobacco smell, soap in streams or rivers, bird and game alarms or insect or frog silences.
    11. Do not be too tempted to use water as a line of movement, as this is where the enemy will probably search or look for signs of security forces in the area.
    12. With a large party, where possible, avoid moving in single file as this will leave definite signs and a track. move in open formation instead.


  1. General.
    1. It is extremely difficult to move silently and quickly in most parts of the bush and consequently this requires a lot of practice and concentration.
    2. There are many paths in the bush made by game during their nightly or seasonal movements. These animals avoid steep or slippery slopes, and therefore game paths will normally provide easy going. Terrorists and military patrols use these trails when quick silent movement is required. Troops should therefore exercise extreme caution when using these trails as they might well be ambushed.
  2. Tracking spoor.
    1. There are two distinct types of spoor, ground spoor and aerial spoor. The ground sign is normally made by a boot- or footprint, and aerial spoor is in the form of trampled grass, broken bushes, broken cobwebs, etc.
    2. The following are signs the experienced tracker looks for when tracking spoor:
      1. Crushed and bent grass and vegetation.
      2. Broken twigs and leaves.
      3. Overturned leaves and stones.
      4. Mud displaced from streams.
      5. Broken cobwebs.
      6. The state of the dew on a trail.
      7. Mud or scratches on stones and logs.
    3. Man. Barefoot prints are soft rounded impressions formed by the heel, ball of foot, or toes. Women's tracks are generally smaller and have on the whole two characteristics. Firstly, they tend to be pigeon-toed, and secondly, their toes are more splayed out than men's.
    4. Running men. Points to observe are skid marks, depth of impression, running on balls of feet and toes, splayed out toes and badly damaged vegetation, with resultant lack of concealment of trail.
    5. Loaded men. Short footsteps, deeper impressions than normal in soft ground, and toes splayed out.
    6. Animals. Due to the fact that most animals have cloven hooves, the impressions formed on the ground have sharp, clear-cut edges.
  3. Judging the age of tracks.
    1. Weather. The state of the weather -- rain, wind, sunshine -- should always be borne in mind as it is one of the most important points in deciding the age of a track.
    2. Obliteration by rain or light rain. By remembering when it last rained, more accurate judgment of the age of tracks is possible. If the tracks are pock-marked, obviously they were made before the rain, and if they are not pock-marked they were made after the rain. Similarly, by looking to see if the tracks have been pock-marked by light rain dripping from trees, the age can be established.
    3. The state and position of trodden vegetation. Various grasses have different grades of resilience, and only practice and experience will enable a tracker to use this factor to judge accurately the age of the spoor.
    4. Bent grass or leaves. An indication of the age of a track may be gained by its dryness. Bent grass will be green initially but after a few days will turn a brown color. Again, the amount of sunshine and rain during the last few days should be taken into account.
    5. Impression in mud. Always note the state of dryness of a track in mud or soft ground. if the track is very fresh, water will not have run back into the depression made by a foot. Later the water runs back, and later still the mud which has been pushed up around the depression, and the mud kicked forward by the food leaving the ground, begins to dry.
    6. Game tracks. Remember that most animals lie up during the day and move about at night. Therefore, if human prints on main forest game trails have at least a double set of animal spoor superimposed and these spoor show that the game has moved in both directions, any human prints are probably at least one night old. If the animal spoor show that game has moved in one direction only, then the human prints were probably made during the night, after the game had moved down to water but before the game moved back.
  4. Information regarding terrorist methods of concealing tracks and camps should also be sought.
  5. Factors affecting tracking. There are certain factors which affect tracking.
    1. Whether the ground is hard or soft, stony or muddy.
    2. The type of country.
    3. The weather -- things lack depth in overcast weather.
    4. The position of the sun relative to the direction of travel. The most suitable position is when one has to track towards the sun.
    5. The footwear of the human quarry. A distinct boot pattern is obviously easier to follow than a plain-soled spoor.
    6. The extent to which other similar tracks may confuse and possibly blur the spoor. g. Concentration and the effect of weariness.
  6. Things the tracker must look for.
    1. Footprints and impressions of footwear: the rhythm of the spoor or the length of stride of the quarry. This is a guide to where the next footprint may be found.
    2. Trampled grass. soil, and marks in the soil where indirect pressure may have left no impression
    3. Disturbed stones, sticks or so .
    4. Leaves which have been turned, crushed, kicked or pulled off trees; branches and twigs bent or broken and vegetation pushed aside; the reflection of light from grass or leaves displaced at an angle; the color of bent and broken vegetation; and scratched or chipped bark.
    5. Discarded wrapping and masticated vegetation.
    6. f. Cobwebs broken or wiped off onto a nearby tree or bush.
    7. Urine and excrement, frequently indicated by house flies and yellow butterflies, and dung beetles during the rains.
    8. Snares and traps, robbed bees' nests and smoke.
    9. The state of dew on the spoor.
    10. Mud displaced from streams or mud on stones and logs.
    11. Squashed animal or insect life, and whether it has been attacked by ants.
  7. A tracker has many things to consider while tracking. He must possess certain qualities, such as above average eyesight, memory, intelligence, fitness, anticipation and understanding of nature. Patience, persistence acute observation and natural instinct are the basis of good tracking There are times when pure instinct alone will draw a tracker in the correct direction. All units should ensure that training in aggressive bushcraft is maintained at the highest possible standard.



  1. Aim. The aim of this section is not to instruct on the handling and training of dogs, but to provide an infantry commander with sufficient background information to enable him to usefully deploy any dogs and dog handlers that may be placed at his disposal.
  2. Under no circumstances will a dog be attached to an army formation without the service of a handler also being provided. The dog and handler are a highly trained team, and a dog cannot be handled by another person.
  3. The handler is an expert in his own field and can give advice on the capability of his dog and the conditions under which it can be used to best effect. He is not, however, responsible for the tactical deployment of his dog. The decision, how and when to use the animal and its handler, rests with the local army commander.
  4. To obtain the maximum value from trained war dogs, it is essential to have an understanding of the conditions best suited for their employment. Dogs, like the rest of the animal kingdom, are subject to outside influences which have a direct bearing on their behavior. It follows, therefore, that the performance of any dog, no matter how highly trained, is not constant and it cannot be expected to work efficiently under every type of condition. This is often not fully appreciated, and instances have occurred where adverse criticism has been leveled against a dog simply because the person responsible for its employment was ignorant of its limitations. Full value will only stem from a full knowledge and better understanding of the capabilities and characteristics of the dogs. It must be remembered that a dog tires easily and consequently must be used sparingly and to the best possible advantage.
  5. The efficiency of a dog is in direct ratio to that of its handler. It is, therefore, most important to select suitable men for training as handlers. Handlers must, therefore, only be changed if absolutely essential.
  6. War dogs are a valuable weapon which, when properly used, provide an advantage over the enemy. The fullest use should therefore be made of them.
  7. The types of war dogs that are in common use are:
    1. Patrol dog.
    2. Tracking dog.
    3. Mine detection dog.
    4. Guard dog.
    5. Dogs for use in crowd control purposes will not be discussed in this section.
  8. Limitations. Certain limitations must be stressed:
    1. The dog is apt to become perplexed when large numbers of people are in a small area, e.g., when opposing forces are in close contact.
    2. The dog is apt to become bewildered when the magnitude and number of extraneous sounds are abnormal, e.g., when the battle is intense.
    3. The dog cannot differentiate between enemy and its own troops. Full briefing to a patrol is essential to prevent "pointing" on scattered elements or groups of troops.

The Patrol Dog

  1. General. A patrol dog works by "air scent" and hearing, and is trained to give silent warning of any individual or group of individuals by pointing. He is not taught to attack and cannot be used as a tracker. The patrol dog is therefore useful for giving silent warning of ambushes, attempts at infiltration, and the presence of any "foreign body," before such presence can be detected by a human. He can be worked either by day or by night, in most kinds of weather and country.
  2. The distance at which warning is given depends upon the following factors:
    1. Ability of the handler to "read" his dog.
    2. Wind direction and velocity.
    3. Concentration of scent.
    4. Humidity.
    5. Density of vegetation.
    6. Volume of noise in the vicinity.
    7. Condition and fitness of dog.
    8. Individual inherent ability.
  3. Operational employment. The patrol dog can be employed in two ways:
    1. On a lead.
    2. Loose in front.

      In both cases, the dog is controlled by a handler.

  4. When moving to an operational area, the dog is kept at heel -- while in this position, the dog knows he is off duty and is not on the alert. When on duty, the collar is removed and either the "pilot rope" is put on and the dog is told to seek, or the dog works loose and the command "seek" is given.
  5. Both handler and dog have to be more highly trained to work with the dog loose.
  6. The dog points by one or a combination of the following signs:
    1. Raising of head and pricking-up of ears.
    2. Tensing of body.
    3. Tail wagging.
    4. Keenness to investigate.
  7. Uses. The patrol dog can be used:
    1. On reconnaissance patrols.
    2. On fighting patrols. c. As a sentry outpost.
    3. Guarding forward dumps.
    4. With static security groups.
    5. In isolated positions.
  8. On patrol. The handler and the dog will normally lead. However, if the dog is being worked loose, it may be possible for the dog to lead followed by the armed scout of the "recce group" with the handler (who is constantly in sight and in control of the dog) next. This makes the handler's job a trifle less hazardous. In any case, close contact must be maintained between handler and patrol leader. The normal procedure is:
    1. The patrol commander indicates to the handler the mission, disposition of own troops, the general direction of advance and any special location instructions.
    2. The patrol is ordered to move out.
    3. The patrol dog and handler with one escort precedes the patrol at a distance which will permit immediate communication with the patrol commander. At night this would be about an arm's length. In daylight the distance will be greater, but within easy visual signaling distance.
    4. The patrol dog and handler move off, keeping generally in the indicated direction. He must be allowed to take advantage of wind and other conditions favoring the dog's scenting powers without endangering the patrol.
    5. When the dog points, the handler indicates by silent hand signal "enemy in sight."
    6. The patrol halts and takes cover.
  9. Patrol commander proceeds quietly, utilizing available cover, to the handler and dog, and makes his plan.
  10. Sentry outposts. The main value of the dog is to give timely warning of approach of, or attempts at infiltration by, the enemy. The handler and dog are placed a short distance from the sentries: this distance will be within easy visual signal range in daylight, but much closer at night. A simple means of communication between handler and patrol commander at night is a piece of cord or string, which is jerked to alert everyone. When alerted, the patrol commander proceeds immediately to the handler to receive any information concerning the distance and direction of the enemy.
  11. Guarding forward dumps, static security groups and isolated positions. The use of patrol dogs on these rare occasions is the same as for a sentry outpost with local modifications. In all cases the local commander should take the advice of the handler as to the best employment of the dog or dogs.

The Tracking Dog

  1. General. Tracking dogs are trained to follow human ground scent. The principle on which the dogs are trained is one of reward by food. The dog is never fed in kennels but only after work, i.e., a successful track.
  2. Tracking conditions. The ideal tracking conditions may be listed as follows:
    1. Air and ground temperatures approximately equal.
    2. A mild dull day with a certain amount of moisture in the air with slow evaporation.
    3. Damp ground and vegetation.
    4. Ground overshadowed by trees.
    5. Blood spilled on trail.
    6. A running enemy who gives off more body odor than one who has walked away calmly.
    7. An unclean enemy.
  3. Factors which adversely affect tracking include:
    1. Hot sun.
    2. Strong wind.
    3. Heavy rain.
    4. Roads (tarmac) on which cars travel.
    5. Running water.
    6. Bush fires.
    7. Animal scent.
  4. Heavy growth of vegetation helps to combat the heat and retains more scent. Furthermore, a greater amount of vegetation is damaged by a running enemy, thus producing an increased aroma.
  5. Operational employment. The most important single factor in the successful employment of a tracking dog is time. The dog must be brought to the scene of the incident with all possible speed and not used as a last resort. it is suggested that tracking dogs be held at a base or some central point until a call for their services is made and then taken as near as possible to the scene of the incident by transport or helicopter in order that they may arrive fresh. The degree of fatigue a tracking dog has reached will determine its usefulness.
  6. Once it has been decided to use a tracking dog, the less fouling of the area with extraneous scent the better. Objects liable to have been in contact with the person to be tracked should not be touched and movement over the area restricted to a minimum.
  7. Great care must be taken to keep the use of tracking dogs as secret as possible. If the enemy know they are likely to be tracked by a dog, they will very probably take counter-measures.
  8. Use of tracker dogs on night follow-up. Tracking dogs have successfully worked night trails and have shown that they are capable of working night trails in fairly difficult terrain. There are, however, certain facts which detract from the use of dogs on a night follow-up; they are:
    1. The dog, when on a trail, moves at a brisk pace and while military forces can maintain this pace during the hours of daylight, it is most difficult to maintain the formation and contact with one another when moving at this pace at night. There are certain inherent difficulties attached to a night follow-up, all of which are aggravated if one has to move at a fast pace.
    2. In daylight hours the handler can see his dog and very often from its behavior can determine whether or not it has left the human trail. When this happens the handler is in a position to correct the dog and put it back on the trail it should be following. At night it is more difficult for the handler to establish whether the dog has left the trail and therefore it will be necessary for the handler to more frequently check the trail being followed. The use of a torch or naked light is undesirable, but this can possibly be overcome by the use of infrared equipment. An additional assurance would be the use of an expert tracker in conjunction with the dog.
    3. In thick bush it is very difficult for military forces to maintain contact with each other and a great deal of noise is also made.
    4. The greatest danger of this type of follow-up is the fact that the chances of walking into a prepared ambush are very much increased. The points raised in the paragraphs above can be overcome with constant practice.
  9. In the event of a terrorist attack during hours of darkness, tracking dogs can be of great assistance in locating the trail and being permitted to follow this trail for approximately half an hour or so to establish clearly the line of flight of the terrorists. It is suggested that in this case the dog and handler be backed by a small number of men merely for local protection and not as a follow-up group in the true sense. once this has been established, the controlling headquarters can plan stop lines and follow-up action.

Mine Detection Dog

  1. This animal is trained to detect mines, booby traps, tunnels, hides or ammunition caches. The scout dog is trained to detect and sit within two feet of any hostile artifact hidden below or above ground, to discover tripwires, caches, tunnels and "punji pits," and to clear a safe lane approximately eight to ten meters wide.
  2. A commander who properly employs a scout dog team can rely on the dog to safely discover approximately 90 percent of all hostile artifacts along his line of march. This depends, naturally, on the state of training of the animal.
  3. Since this animal is a specialist in its own right, it is vitally important that this team be provided with adequate protection while working. It may be necessary to make use of the patrol dog to give this added protection.

Guard Dog

  1. General. The role of the guard dog is to give greater security to guarded installations. Because the dog's senses are more acute during hours of darkness and when distracting influences during these hours are reduced to a minimum, its use should be directed towards the replacement or supplementing of night sentries or guards.
  2. Employment. They can be used to protect sensitive points and other installations. When on duty these dogs can:
    1. Be on a leash under direct control of a handler and used as a prowler guard within the installation or along the perimeter of the installation being protected.
    2. Be allowed to run loose within a building or fenced-in area.
    3. Be attached to a "run wire" whereby the animal can move freely within the area of its beat. d. Run loose in dog runs on the perimeter of the key point or installation.
  3. They can alert the guards or dog handler by barking, or the more vicious type is taught to attack any intruder immediately.


  1. Dogs may be transported by helicopters or other types of light aircraft. The animals travel well and do not suffer any discomfort. Do not expect too much of a dog; it must be borne in mind that the dog can be defeated easily by the ingenuity of man.
  2. A very important point to remember is to ensure that the right type of dog is requested when required. Do not ask for a patrol dog when a tracking dog is required.




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