How do I clone a single branch in Git?


I have a local Git repository in ~/local_repo. It has a few branches:

$ git branch
* master

To clone the local repository, I do:

$ git clone ~/local_repo new_repo
Initialized empty Git repository in /home/username/new_repo/.git/

The new_repo master branch points to the local_repo master branch, and I can push / pull.

But I am unable to clone another branch. I want to only pull the branch I want (e.g. rails), so that the new repository has a master branch that pushes to and pulls from local_repo's rails branch, by default. How do I accomplish this, or perhaps something similar with local_repo tracking the master local_repo?


Note: the git1.7.10 (April 2012) actually allows you to clone only one branch:

# clone only the remote primary HEAD (default: origin/master)
git clone <url> --single-branch

as in:

git clone <url> –branch <branch> –single-branch <folder>


  • <url> is the URL of the remote repository, and does not reference the branch cloned
  • <folder> is the local folder where you want to clone the repository

You can see it in

test_expect_success 'single branch clone' '
  git clone --single-branch "file://$(pwd)/." singlebranch

Tobu comments that:

This is implicit when doing a shallow clone.
This makes git clone --depth 1 the easiest way to save bandwidth.

And since Git 1.9.0 (February 2014), shallow clones support data transfer (push/pull), so that option is even more useful now.
See more at "Is git clone --depth 1 (shallow clone) more useful than it makes out?".

"Undoing" a shallow clone is detailed at "Convert shallow clone to full clone" (git 1.8.3+)

# unshallow the current branch
git fetch --unshallow

for getting back all the branches (see Peter Cordes’ comment)

git config remote.origin.fetch refs/heads/:refs/remotes/origin/ git fetch –unshallow

As Chris comments:

the magic line for getting missing branches to reverse --single-branch is (git v2.1.4):

git config remote.origin.fetch +refs/heads/*:refs/remotes/origin/*
git fetch --unshallow  

With Git 2.26 (Q1 2020), "git clone --recurse-submodules --single-branch" now uses the same single-branch option when cloning the submodules.

See commit 132f600, commit 4731957 (21 Feb 2020) by Emily Shaffer (nasamuffin).
(Merged by Junio C Hamano -- gitster -- in commit b22db26, 05 Mar 2020)

clone: pass --single-branch during --recurse-submodules

Signed-off-by: Emily Shaffer
Acked-by: Jeff King

Previously, performing "git clone --recurse-submodules --single-branch" resulted in submodules cloning all branches even though the superproject cloned only one branch.

Pipe --single-branch through the submodule helper framework to make it to 'clone' later on.

How to determine when a Git branch was created?

git push --force-with-lease vs. --force