(Stephen Powell: No, I was right the first time, it is going. Do you want it out now?) When it definitely sinks and stops moving. I thought I'd made it clear the other day, what the precise moment of removal should be. (Stephen Powell: But you don't want it to drown, do you? If it...) No! It's nothing to do with want! It's not intended to drown. Not this time, anyway; and I think probably not the next time either, depending on results of course.
~ Dr. Boycott arguing with Stephen Powell while testing Rowf's endurance.

Dr. John Robert Boycott is the main antagonist of the 1977 Richard Adams book The Plague Dogs, and its 1982 animated film adaptation of the same name. He is a callous and unemotional scientist who runs the A.R.S.E. and tortures animals for experiments, particularly Rowf and Snitter.

He was voiced by the late Nigel Hawthorne, who also played Raymond Cocteau in Demolition Man.


Dr. Boycott is a senior researcher at A.R.S.E. in charge of the experimental program which involved Rowf. He is callous and arrogant, with no remorse for either the animals in his experiments or his subordinate, Stephen Powell. His inept handling of the situation arising from the dogs' escape serves both to antagonize the local farmers, who are losing sheep to the dogs, and to provide grist to Digby Driver's mill despite his efforts to do the opposite.


He represented, in fact, a most ingenious paradox, noble in reason, express and admirable in action, his undemonstrative heart committed with the utmost detachment to the benefit of humanity. Something too much of this. Besides, who in his senses could reasonably expect Dr. Boycott to ask himself, on behalf of the human race, not, "How much knowledge can I discover?" but "How much knowledge am I justified in seeking?".
~ The Narrator about Dr. Boycott.
Dr. Boycott is portrayed as an extremely egotistical, greedy, ruthless, cruel, cold, unfeeling, sadistic and inhumane scientist who loves to use animals for experiments. It is explained that he is nothing like any other known scientist and that no real-life research facility would do experiments like he does. Despite the cruel experiments he performed on his animals, he makes it clear that they are usually commercial. It is implied that he is inhuman and that he is motivated by the amount of knowledge he is justified in seeking, rather than the knowledge he can discover. It is also explained by a dog named Licker that he sometimes beats animals to death instantaneously after restraining them in mental harnesses, possibly including Kiff.

After Ann Moss sold Snitter to their lab, he has done numerous vivisection experiments on him. He also uses electrodes on monkeys for invasive brain research and locks up one of them in a confined space for 42 days for a pointless sensory deprivation experiment. He also does experiments on rabbits by dripping amounts of hairspray into their eyes to see how long it takes for them to go blind. He also covers cats' eyes and ears with hoods to see what happens to them for that exact purpose. He doesn't show any sympathy for his subbordinate, Stephen Powell as well and can sometimes be threatening towards him. This eventually leads to Powell quitting his job and taking the cylinder-confined monkey with him, so he can look for a new career and save his sick daughter from a mysterious disease.

One of his assistants, Dr. Goodner, is obsessed with studying the bubonic plague and plans on using it as a secret bioweapon. This leads to the belief that the dogs are infected with the plague after they escape the lab and Digby Driver uses that to make matters worse so he can sell his newspapers. In the film, he hired a bounty hunter named Ackland to take down Rowf and Snitter and wanted to get involved with the hunt, so he wouldn't be an embarrassment and not be dropped out of his job. When the Under Secretary called him, he overhears that he should suspend his job and he reluctantly agrees.


During Snitter's life with his owner, Alan Wood, Snitter is being chased by an approaching truck. His owner pushes him out of the way and is hit by the truck. His sister, Ann Moss argues that Snitter killed him and sells him to the A.R.S.E., leaving Snitter to believe that he killed his master.

Dr. Boycott and his right-hand man Stephen Powell have done numerous experiments on Snitter with vivisection, while they repeatedly drowned Rowf to test his endurance. One day, the janitor, Harry Tyson, accidentally leaves Rowf's door open after returning him to his pen. The following evening, Snitter squeezes into Rowf's cage and discover that his door was unlatched. They explore the facility in order to escape while discovering other animals who were having horrible experiments done on them until they sneak into an incinerator. When the dogs wake up, Snitter senses another opening as Dr. Goodner prepares the incinerator. They narrowly escape, leaving them to roam the countryside.

While the dogs are out looking for a new master, they stumble across a driver. The driver notices Snitter's green collar and decides to take him back to A.R.S.E., but Rowf scares him away. Meanwhile, Dr. Boycott and Powell are concerned about their lost dogs and figure that they must be chasing sheep.

Later, the farmers raid the Tod's area with hunting dogs. The Tod warns the two dogs about their presence and they flee. Meanwhile, the scientists are arguing about the missing dogs. Dennis Williamson calls the facility and inquires if they lost any dogs, but Powell refuses to give a straight answer.

Later, Dr. Boycott phones the experimental station and hires a bounty hunter named Ackland to take down the dogs. Ackland finds the derelict area the dogs have been sleeping, but finds nothing. Dr. Boycott argues with Powell over the lost dogs and explains that they need to get involved, otherwise they'll be dropped after they're proven to be an embarrassment.

On a snowy day, Ackland follows the dogs on their trail, unaware that the Tod is following him. Ackland finds the two dogs and takes aim, but only succeeds in shooting off Rowf's collar as the Tod jumps him, causing him to fall to his death. The dogs scavenge the hunter's corpse and the army gets involved as the police find his half-eaten corpse.

Dr. Boycott can't deny that the green collar is one of theirs. The Major wants him to accept what happened. He says that the researchers didn't want to admit that the dogs may have infected with the bubonic plague; now, they are trying to kill all animals. The Minister of Defense sends two companies to catch the dogs.

The dogs learn that the scientists are patrolling the area in an RAF Sea King helicopter, but the Tod comes up with a plan to distract the hunters and have the dogs escape on a train to the sea. However, he ends up being wounded by one of the army dogs and is eventually cornered and killed by the hunters.

The train arrives at the coastal village of Ravenglass where the two dogs try to find some food at a cafe, but they are spotted by the helicopter and are pursued by it until they reach the shoreline and can run no further. As the army approach and prepare to shoot the dogs, Snitter looks out over the water and claims to see an island. He jumps into the sea and begins to swim to it. Rowf is hesitant to follow due to his hydrophobia, but his greater fear of the soldiers drives him to jump in as well and catch up with Snitter. The soldiers begin to shoot at the dogs, but miss. A mist begins to form as the helicopter disappears. Meanwhile, Dr. Boycott is called by the Under-Secretary and overhears that he is forced to suspend his job.


It's most unfortunate. I still can't quite understand how it happened. (Stephen Powell: As far as I can make out, there was a length of wire netting loose, and 815 must've got under sometime that night.) But if the door had been fastened, it wouldn't open of its own accord, would it? (Stephen Powell: It is possible that Tyson didn't shut the door properly, of course.) They couldn't have gotten into Dr. Goodner's section, could they? (Stephen Powell: No, no, no. We're quite sure of that. That was the first place I checked. I've spoken to Dr. Goodner, and he's sure that...) Yes. Well, that's something, anyway.
~ Dr. Boycott planning on hunting down Rowf and Snitter.
(Laboratory assistant: They must be starving by now. Suppose they start worrying sheep?) Well, then some farmer will shoot them, or realize where they're from and get onto us. In which case we'll only have to pacify one local instead of the whole district. Damn shame though. All that work on those dogs, gone for nothing.
~ Dr. Boycott about the situation over the dogs killing sheep.
Telling this Williamson that we have nothing to say was exactly the right light to take. (Stephen Powell: He's gonna think that's very suspicious. And what about Tyson?) I've already had a word with Tyson, and the most he can say, if he asked, is that two pens were found empty. (Stephen Powell: Do you think Williamson's gonna accept that?) I don't think we're under any obligation to answer that farmer's questions. If he thinks evil, let him prove evil, if he can.
~ Dr. Boycott after meeting Dennis Williamson.
(Ackland: Ackland here.) Mr. Ackland. I wonder if you'd consider doing a small job for me. (Ackland: Uh, who's this I'm talking to?) Boycott, Dr. Robert Boycott. I'm with the Lawson Park experimental station in Coniston. (Ackland: Alright. What kind of job?) Well, I understand that there are two dogs, that have worrying sheep up near Thirlmere. If you have the time, I'd... I'd be more grateful if you could... see your way clear to ensuring that they... they don't do any more damage.
~ Dr. Boycott hiring Ackland to take down Rowf and Snitter.
(Stephen Powell: It was the police, I had to go.) By going with them, it looks as though we're admitting our connection with the matter. Oh well, it can't be helped now. Perhaps our best cause is to make a short announcement, acknowledging that two dogs have escaped. (Stephen Powell: Do you think that will satisfy them?) All they're concerned with, is not getting involved. They know the kind of work we do here. If we prove to be an embarrassment, they'll drop us in a minute.
~ Dr. Boycott planning on getting involved in the hunt.
We're certainly not denying that two dogs got out. We said as much in an early press release, but, what happened to them after that, I'm afraid I can't tell you. (Lynn Driver: You'll forgive me, Dr. Boycott, if I can't help feeling that that's just a shade lacking in... well, frankness.) Now, when we say something here, it's always 100% reliable. But, for all practical purposes... (Lynn Driver: Would you care to amplify that a little?) No, I don't think I would. It's really a matter between the local hill authority and the responsible government. If they're not bothered... (Lynn Driver: Not bothered?) They're not bothered that any risk of bubonic plague exists. Now, if you want to know more than that... [telephone rings] Excuse me, please. Dr. Boycott. You're sure it was one of ours? The green collar? Um, yes, I'll... I'll ring you back. Yes, immediately. And someone will be down the station straight away.
~ Dr. Boycott learning about the shot-off collar belonging to Rowf.
Boycott, here. The Under Secretary? Yes, of course I'll speak to him. Good afternoon, sir. It has been inconvenient, I've taken steps to ensure it doesn't happen again. Suspend work completely, sir? Couldn't we... no of course not. I understand completely.
~ Dr. Boycott's last words after he is forced to quit his job.





  • Like the other humans in the film, he is barely seen and his voice is mostly heard in the background.
  • His voice actor, the late Nigel Hawthorne also voiced Captain Campion from the 1978 film Watership Down, which is another movie directed by Martin Rosen and based on a book by Richard Adams.
    • The film also starred John Hurt, who would go on to play General Woundwort in the Watership Down TV series.
  • The scene in which Rowf and Snitter sneak out of the lab to escape shows them walking past the other animals who were having horrible experiments done on them, including monkeys with electrodes planted into their heads and rabbits being experimented on with hairspray to make them go blind. The fact that the monkeys have electrodes planted into their heads makes it unlikely they are being used for breeding, but equally horrific invasive brain research.
  • In the film, Boycott hires a bounty hunter named Ackland to hunt down the dogs until he eventually falls to his death and is svaneged by the dogs. However, in the book, the hunter is Geoffrey Wescott, who was not hired by Boycott and only wanted to hunt them down for raiding his car.
  • In the extended version of the film, Dr. Boycott is at his lab and overhears that he is forced to quit his job before the two dogs try to escape the army. In the cut version, while the two dogs are being chased into the sea by the army and the helicopter, Dr. Boycott is forced to suspend his job as the two dogs swim out to find the island.
  • His experiments on cats by making them wear hoods is not shown in the film. The purpose of the experiment was to find out what happens to cats who are forced to wear hoods that constantly cover their eyes and ears.
  • His other experiments in the book include guinea pigs with amputated limbs, homing pigeons with damaged sensory organs and brains, mice who've been injected with the urine of potentially pregnant women, and rats who were given cancer and then dissected.
  • Snitter's shout to the vulture "I hope you make sure we're properly dead before you start, old rip-beak!" is sampled in the industrial band Skinny Puppy's song/single "Testure". Both the song, whose name combines "test" and "torture", and music video equates medical experimentation on live animals as torture.
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