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Checkout github pull requests locally

Locate the section for your github remote in the .git/config file. It looks like this:

[remote "origin"]
	fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
	url =

Now add the line fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/* to this section. Obviously, change the github url to match your project's URL. It ends up looking like this:

[remote "origin"]
	fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
	url =
	fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*

Now fetch all the pull requests:

$ git fetch origin
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/1000/head -> origin/pr/1000
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/1002/head -> origin/pr/1002
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/1004/head -> origin/pr/1004
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/1009/head -> origin/pr/1009

To check out a particular pull request:

$ git checkout pr/999
Branch pr/999 set up to track remote branch pr/999 from origin.
Switched to a new branch 'pr/999'

DTrejo commented Aug 13, 2012


chilts commented Aug 13, 2012

Hey cool. Didn't know you could do that! :) Thanks.

sminnee commented Aug 13, 2012


naholyr commented Aug 14, 2012

So much love \o/

AlekSi commented Aug 14, 2012





Nice! I dropped this in my rc file to make this process easy:
function pullify() {
git config --add remote.origin.fetch '+refs/pull//head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/'


piscisaureus commented Aug 27, 2012


Thanks. I just realized that with this trick you can enable it for all your repos at once :-)

git config --global --add remote.origin.fetch "+refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*"

andhapp commented Sep 27, 2012

Just for fetching only one pull request. Handy, if you're hacking on something.

  git fetch origin pull/7324/head:pr-7324

origin points to the remote server.
pull/7324/head is the remote pull request.
pr-7324 is the local pull-request branch.

@piscisaureus The global config trick has an unfortunate side-effect. See Might be worth the tradeoff, but it's worth being aware of.

havvg commented Nov 27, 2012

Your refspec is wrong, isn't it?

[remote "origin"]
    fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
    url =
    fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*

In case you retrieve a branch named pr/3 from the origin fetched based on your first refspec +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/* and there is a third pull request, it would conflict. I never tried it, but that's why I got fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/gh-pull/remotes/origin/* as refspec, which is not conflicting with anything of git.

On a side note, when building scripts imitating the "merge"-button of github, you can make use of fetch = +refs/pull/*/merge:refs/gh-merge/remotes/origin/* which point to the merge commit of the respective pull request.

Anyone managed to work out how to actually remove the pull ref, for example:
git push origin :pr/1
doesn't seem to work

pcreux commented Jan 22, 2013

You can also use and run git checkout

arthurnn commented Feb 2, 2013

Any reason for, when I do
git fetch origin --prune
it creates the pr local branches and it deletes them right after?


 * [new ref]         refs/pull/1/head -> origin/pr/1
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/2/head -> origin/pr/2
 x [deleted]         (none)     -> origin/pr/1
 x [deleted]         (none)     -> origin/pr/2

jimi-c commented Feb 9, 2013

@tomjenkinson did you ever figure out a solution to deleting them remotely, or to at least ignore those that are closed?

@arthurnn The fetch line for pull requests needs to be before the one for heads. I wrote a small shell function to do this.

I just wanted to chime in and tell you about a tool I put together to work with pull requests from the command line.

I know it's been done before, but I wanted to take a slightly different approach.

It's here:

sthulb commented Mar 22, 2013


hlysig commented Mar 25, 2013


ypandit commented Mar 25, 2013


Darep commented Mar 25, 2013


The way I normally do this is just to add the other user as a remote:

git remote add other_user other_user_repo_url
git fetch other_user
git checkout -b other_user_branch other_user/branch

Nice, though!

ooh, I've been trying to figure this one out forever ! I strongly dislike just reading and clicking "merge this" without testing.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013


Thank you

mwhite commented Mar 25, 2013

You can also try which shows you a list of pull requests.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

For the record, pushing a locally-merged PR closed it in the GitHub UI.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

I get an error trying to set up the branch as a tracking branch:

$ git checkout pr/785
error: Not tracking: ambiguous information for ref refs/remotes/origin/pr/785
Switched to a new branch 'pr/785'

Indications are that it's because there are too many such branches?

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

And also for the record, a fast-forward merge doesn't seem to close the PR in GitHub. That is, I rebased master onto pr/785, then merged pr/785 to master, then pushed, and the PR is still open.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

I hypothesize that rebasing meant that the original commit hash was lost, and GitHub looks at commit hashes to determine whether a PR is closed.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

I wonder if my broken tracking branch affects this as well?

@whit537 I think you're right about rebase being the issue. Github looks only for the hashes in the original PR commits. A fast-forward vs. non-fast-forward shouldn't matter, but if a rebase changes the hashes it won't work.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013


It seems that git merge --no-ff pr/785 and git cherry-pick pr/785 might be good parts of a workflow that doesn't confuse GitHub.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

@treyhunner Ah, okay, thanks. :)

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*

So if I'm reading this right, it means that GitHub keeps pull requests in the pull namespace, ya?

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

I get the same error message trying to fix up a tracking branch after the fact:

$ git branch --set-upstream-to=origin/pr/782
error: Not tracking: ambiguous information for ref refs/remotes/origin/pr/782

Hellz yeah, thanks!

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

Here's fetch:

$ git fetch
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/100/head -> origin/pr/100
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/105/head -> origin/pr/105
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/117/head -> origin/pr/117
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/137/head -> origin/pr/137
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/782/head -> origin/pr/782
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/785/head -> origin/pr/785
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/788/head -> origin/pr/788
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/790/head -> origin/pr/790

And then:

$ git remote show origin
* remote origin
  Fetch URL:
  Push  URL:
  HEAD branch: master
  Remote branches:
    master                     tracked
    refs/pull/100/head         tracked
    refs/pull/105/head         tracked
    refs/pull/117/head         tracked
    refs/pull/137/head         tracked
    refs/pull/782/head         tracked
    refs/pull/785/head         tracked
    refs/pull/788/head         tracked
    refs/pull/790/head         tracked
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/100 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/105 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/117 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/137 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/782 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/785 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/788 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
    refs/remotes/origin/pr/790 stale (use 'git remote prune' to remove)
  Local branches configured for 'git pull':
    master   merges with remote master
  Local refs configured for 'git push':
    master            pushes to master            (up to date)

And then:

$ git remote prune origin
Pruning origin
 * [pruned] origin/pr/100
 * [pruned] origin/pr/105
 * [pruned] origin/pr/117
 * [pruned] origin/pr/137
 * [pruned] origin/pr/782
 * [pruned] origin/pr/785
 * [pruned] origin/pr/788
 * [pruned] origin/pr/790

Bringing me back to:

* remote origin
  Fetch URL:
  Push  URL:
  HEAD branch: master
  Remote branches:
    master             tracked
    refs/pull/100/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/105/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/117/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/137/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/782/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/785/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/788/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    refs/pull/790/head new (next fetch will store in remotes/origin)
    rubygems           tracked
  Local branches configured for 'git pull':
    master   merges with remote master
  Local refs configured for 'git push':
    master            pushes to master            (up to date)

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

$ git --version
git version

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

Got it! The heroku remote in my .git/config conflicts. Let's see how to configure for both ...

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

Well, next thing:

$ git branch
* pull/782
$ git pull
Your configuration specifies to merge with the ref 'pull/782'
from the remote, but no such ref was fetched.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

@jasoncodes's tip above about the order of the fetch refspecs takes the stale output out of git remote show origin.

whit537 commented Mar 25, 2013

I fixed the heroku conflict by removing the fetch key in the [heroku] section of .git/config. Now it just looks like:

[remote "heroku"]                                                                             
    url =

I can still push to it just fine.

dvessel commented Mar 25, 2013

This is awesome!

Is it possible to filter for pull requests against a specific branch? thx!


Never mind, doesn't look possible without it getting overly complicated. I wouldn't have gotten much out of it anyway.


awesome! :)

moltar commented Apr 1, 2013

Dope!! Thanks for the tip.

pferreir commented Apr 2, 2013

I cannot properly express all the love that this small piece of text musters in me. You have my gratitude.

gnarf commented Apr 17, 2013

You can create an alias to pull single pulls:

In your global .gitconfig:

 pr = "!f() { git fetch origin refs/pull/$1/head:pr/$1; } ; f"

of course this always assumes origin because thats all I ever use for upstream when I'm a maintainer, but you can customize that part too if you want, relatively trivial

rue commented Apr 19, 2013

This is the best thing ever.

sickill commented Apr 21, 2013

I'm trying to figure out what's the value of this? Since each PR is attached to a branch you can just checkout the branch, right?

stubb commented May 2, 2013

@sickill not if someone forks your repo and works within this repo

istro commented May 3, 2013

Thank you @piscisaureus for the Gist!
However, for my purposes - @gnarf37 - your solution is more concise :-)

Today when I did git pull I got a lot of

 * [new ref]

But I didn't change anything in my .git/config. I thought those new refs would only be pulled if I added the line

fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*

Is my understanding correct or am I missing something? Thanks in advance for any information.


HBehrens commented Jul 2, 2013

Great, thanks :)

gauteh commented Jul 22, 2013

Modification of @cldwalker suggestion, ~/.gitconfig:

pullify = config --add remote.origin.fetch '+refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*'

or for arbitrary remotes use $1 for 'origin'.


git checkout master curl | git am


whit537 commented Sep 3, 2013

@gnarf has some nice aliases at

$ git pr 537
 * [new ref]         refs/pull/537/head -> pr/537
Switched to branch 'pr/537'
$ co master
Switched to branch 'master'
$ git pr-clean
Deleted branch pr/537 (was e17f10a).

I prefer this method from @joelmccracken, Thanks, BTW.

git remote add other_user other_user_repo_url
git fetch other_user
git checkout -b other_user_branch other_user/branch

tzz commented Jan 6, 2014

clever, thanks!

How would one add commits to a pr? With this:

git checkout pr/74
git commit -m 'Fixed some stuff'
git push origin pr/74

It creates a new branch pr/74

It would be superb if you could pull only open pull requests like this.

pents90 commented Feb 7, 2014

@whit537, I' m getting the same issue as you (Your configuration specifies to merge with the ref 'pull/782'
from the remote, but no such ref was fetched), any idea how to fix?

Somehow I get this:

git fetch origin
fatal: refs/remotes/origin/pr/40 tracks both refs/heads/pr/40 and refs/pull/40/head
Unexpected end of command stream

Any ideas what it might be?

Is it possible for a maintainer to rebase a pull from a fork (instead of having to tell the originator of the PR to do it in their fork themselves?)

@jaymarshal - had the same problem and error message. I'd somehow managed to create a branch called pr/22. I verified this by seeing the branch in GitHub.

I used the following to delete the erroneous pr branch (from

git push origin --delete pr/22

Everything now working correctly and I can pull again.

MattiSG commented Feb 17, 2014

This gist breaks installing Homebrew

Sorry for shouting, lots of comments in here. Don't get me wrong: this won't break installing with brew, but this will break installing brew itself. Indeed, using this trick will give you brew issue #19436, and will probably break some other scripts.

Basically, if a repo does not yet have an origin set, the instruction from this gist will pretend it has. However, since it has no URL (which of course it couldn't, since we want it to be generic), no fetch can happen, but you also can't associate any new origin, since it already exists.

dolmen commented Mar 28, 2014

@beporter Yes, you can.
Just create a branch from the submitted branch: git checkout -b pr42-rebased pr/42 ; git rebase master.
As an alternative you can also just cherry-pick each commit of the pr.

It works

haiy commented Jun 14, 2014

Sooo looooog....Greate.

beedaan commented Jun 24, 2014

Thank You!

dakcarto commented Sep 2, 2014

@piscisaureus It appears @jasoncodes's note about the order of the fetch lines is correct, i.e.:

[remote "origin"]
    url =
    fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*
    fetch = +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*

If the PR fetch comes after the regular fetch, I end up with an ambiguous (and non-existent) remote tracking branch in on Mac. After the reordering, as above, assigned remote tracking branch is accurate and pulling in new changes works (though I'm sure if the remote PR is rebased and force-pushed a new local branch will still need checked out, as per norm).

This may be specific to the way SourceTree auto-assigns a tracking branch, but nonetheless, works for me.

And also for the record, a fast-forward merge doesn't seem to close the PR in GitHub. That is, I rebased master onto pr/785, then merged pr/785 to master, then pushed, and the PR is still open.

This is a feature github is still missing: Recognizing fast-forward merges.

frhd commented Nov 13, 2014

I love this shit.

Wow. Thanks for posting this!! Just what I needed to rescue a pull request whose original submitter had deleted the repository of, so there was no other reference to the commits.

twiecki commented Jan 1, 2015

This used to work fine but now I'm getting:

>>git pull origin
fatal: Cannot fetch both refs/pull/416/head and refs/heads/pr/416 to refs/remotes/origin/pr/416

Any idea?

EDIT: Turns out there was a remote branch named pr/416 I had to delete.

chernjie commented Feb 9, 2015

I did this so often that I wrote a tool to do it for me, hope you like it!

njt1982 commented Feb 9, 2015

Once I am on one of these PR branches, is there anyway to find out the name of the branch this PR was made from?

Eg, say I had a PR open for master..my_feature and I checkout out pr/123... Is there any git command to tell me that ref points to the HEAD of my_feature?

worked for me! Thanks for your efforts.

livash commented May 1, 2015

Thanks for this post. Super helpful.

You know what? You are both cool and awesome.
Thanks a lot.

mhotan commented Jun 10, 2015


100 X 👍, Thanks!

zldrq commented Aug 1, 2015

never saw that coming!

In addition to

    fetch = +refs/pull/*/head:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*/head

I recommend grabbing the merge ref as well:

    fetch = +refs/pull/*/merge:refs/remotes/origin/pr/*/merge

Merge refs are the merge result from your branch to your merge target, they contain an exact copy of what the tip of the master will become when merged (well exact spare for an author perhaps)

rr- commented Sep 4, 2015

Can I use this to recover active pull requests from deleted forks?

gibffe commented Nov 3, 2015

nice one !

Nice, thank you ❤️

I use a bash function for this

# Git Checkout a Pull Request locally.
# Usage: gfpr 8
# Where 8 is the number of pull request (can be found right after the PR's title).
# @author Ahmad Awais
function gfpr(){
  echo "${whitef}———————————————————${reset}"
    echo "${whiteb} ${blackf}0. Fetching the pull request...${reset}"

    git fetch origin pull/"${1}"/head:pull_"${1}"

    echo "${whiteb} ${blackf}1. PR fetched creating a branch...${reset}"

    git checkout pull_"${1}"

    echo "${whiteb} ${blackf}2. Checking out to a new PR branch...${reset}"

    echo "${greenb} ${blackf}3. PR Branch Created!!!${reset}"
  echo "${whitef}———————————————————${reset}"

There needs to be something in upstream git that just...does that. or at least in github/hub :p

@tomjenkinson & @jimi-c: About removing any remote pull ref from a github repo, I’m pretty sure you can’t. If you could, the way would be:

git push --delete origin refs/pull/1/head

…where 1 is of course the PR number for whatever pull ref you want to remove.

But if you try that, you’ll get a message saying something like:

! [remote rejected] refs/pull/1/head (deny updating a hidden ref)

…the reason being that the github remote refs/pull/ namespace is a (synthetic) read-only namespace.

bf4 commented Jan 28, 2016

A stupid way to recover a commit that has been rebased and is now unreachable:

  1. Given unreachable commit
  2. See if you can compare them to any earlier commit you have
  3. Push your local commit up to a recovery branch git checkout f571415f4da9cc28edc83242e353966677dabcd2; git checkout -b recovery; git push origin recovery
  4. See the patch commits and download as recovery.patch (you could curl unless it's private so blah blah)
  5. Apply the patch commits and push up. git am recovery.patch && git push origin recovery

Thank you

Is there way to get only opened pull requests, not all? Because I don't wanna see already merged requests.

Thank you. It's helpful!

Thank you. It's helpful!

hayd commented Apr 27, 2016

@sideshowbarker (@tomjenkinson @jimi-c)

whilst pull is readonly, it seems you can remove from the heads.

git push --delete upstream refs/heads/pr/521

This seems to fix the issue for our team (the PR/branch has since been deleted... I'm hoping it won't come back).

Very Useful thanks.

cvvs commented Aug 12, 2016


njql007 commented Sep 1, 2016

This is useful, thank you!

drupol commented Sep 13, 2016


Thanks for the useful tip !
One drawback only, how to update it's local branch when someone added a commit to the pull request ?
I tried git pull in the local branch, but I got this error:

pol@localhost ~/d/g/mysite> git pull
Your configuration specifies to merge with the ref 'pr/4'
from the remote, but no such ref was fetched.
pol@localhost ~/d/g/mysite>

oh so nice tip

Reading I do not see a command to add this ***** refspecs

It seems one can fetch an individual PR by something like git fetch origin master:refs/remotes/origin/mymaster but I haven't figured out as adding the whole lot is much simpler as most of the time one is interested in more then one PR

awesome job it could either checkout upstream pull requests.

anhhh11 commented Oct 11, 2016

awesome \o/

great job. thanks a lots

Is there any way to make the local branch track the remote branch the PT is based on?

tucq88 commented Nov 25, 2016

First, thanks for this great gist. But second, I want to ask if anyone figure out a way to list only current opening PRs ? Listing all of them (include with closed PRs) is not very ...productive
@denysdovhan Did you find a way to do so ?

Neat, thanks!

kwhitley commented Mar 9, 2017

👍 Very useful!

sajhak commented Mar 22, 2017

nice and useful (y)

This has been very helpful. Thank you!

It looks like it was asked previously, but just in case I missed the reply, is there a way to list only the ones that are open? My dropdown in SourceTree now shows about 21k PRs while only ~70 are actually open.

I am still missing a way to do a git pull after checking out a PR. When I call git pull I get the following message. git fetch works fine.

Your configuration specifies to merge with the ref 'refs/heads/pr/1544'
from the remote, but no such ref was fetched.

The solution for now is to delete the branch, and then check it out again:

git branch -D pr/1544
git checkout pr/1544

Does anyone have any advice?

bagong commented Jul 9, 2017

@thomasaarholt, I agree, the weakness of this otherwise lovely approach is that it seems not to be possible to track the pull request and resynchronize easily with subsequent commits. By now Github itself promotes checking out the PR from the remote branch the PR is based upon. This has multiple advantages:

  • the PR has a meaningful name, not just a number
  • if you have commit rights to the repo the PR is targeted at and the user did not disable editing of his/her pr, you can directly push to the PR and thereby speed up the review process
  • and of course you get a proper tracking branch

Getting used to working with remotes makes life with Git so much more worthwhile ;)

If you want to update a pr/1234 branch locally (resynchronize), you can git pull origin refs/pull/1234/head.

Just another "Thank you"! Very handy!

xuexb commented Oct 26, 2017

Thank you~

gondre commented Nov 7, 2017


mobajm commented Nov 11, 2017

Thank you for this. For a reason I don't know I couldn't retrieve only the PR of interest to me, but this approach worked nicely.

Thanks for this buddy!

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