Add a new section to canonically explain how remote reference pruning
works, and how users should be careful about using it in conjunction
with tag refspecs in particular.

A subsequent commit will update the git-remote documentation to refer
to this section, and details the motivation for writing this in the
first place.

Signed-off-by: Ævar Arnfjörð Bjarmason <>
 Documentation/git-fetch.txt | 49 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
 1 file changed, 49 insertions(+)

diff --git a/Documentation/git-fetch.txt b/Documentation/git-fetch.txt
index b153aefa68..e94bcfb8c3 100644
--- a/Documentation/git-fetch.txt
+++ b/Documentation/git-fetch.txt
@@ -99,6 +99,55 @@ The latter use of the `remote.<repository>.fetch` values can 
 overridden by giving the `--refmap=<refspec>` parameter(s) on the
 command line.
+Git has a default disposition of keeping data unless it's explicitly
+thrown away; this extends to holding onto local references to branches
+on remotes that have themselves deleted those branches.
+If left to accumulate, these stale references might make performance
+worse on big and busy repos that have a lot of branch churn, and
+e.g. make the output of commands like `git branch -a --contains
+<commit>` needlessly verbose, as well as impacting anything else
+that'll work with the complete set of known references.
+These remote-tracking references can be deleted as a one-off with
+either of:
+# While fetching
+$ git fetch --prune <name>
+# Only prune, don't fetch
+$ git remote prune <name>
+To prune references as part of your normal workflow without needing to
+remember to run that, set `fetch.prune` globally, or
+`remote.<name>.prune` per-remote in the config. See
+Here's where things get tricky and more specific. The pruning feature
+doesn't actually care about branches, instead it'll prune local <->
+remote-references as a function of the refspec of the remote (see
+Therefore if the refspec for the remote includes
+e.g. `refs/tags/*:refs/tags/*`, or you manually run e.g. `git fetch
+--prune <name> "refs/tags/*:refs/tags/*"` it won't be stale remote
+tracking branches that are deleted, but any local tag that doesn't
+exist on the remote.
+This might not be what you expect, i.e. you want to prune remote
+`<name>`, but also explicitly fetch tags from it, so when you fetch
+from it you delete all your local tags, most of which may not have
+come from the `<name>` remote in the first place.
+So be careful when using this with a refspec like
+`refs/tags/*:refs/tags/*`, or any other refspec which might map
+references from multiple remotes to the same local namespace.

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