Git References

A Git reference (git ref) is just a file that contains a Git commit SHA-1 hash. When referring to a Git commit, you can use the Git reference, which is an easy-to-remember name, rather than the hash. The Git reference can be rewritten to point to a new commit. A branch is just a Git reference that stores the new Git commit hash. These endpoints allow you to read and write references to your Git database on GitHub. See the Git Database API for more details.

Note: To help with migrating from our REST API v3 to GraphQL API v4, we're introducing a preview period to include the GraphQL node_id in the response for many REST API v3 resources. See the blog post for full details. To access node_id during the preview period, you must provide a custom media type in the Accept header:

application/vnd.github.jean-grey-preview+json

Warning: The API may change without advance notice during the preview period. Preview features are not supported for production use. If you experience any issues, contact GitHub support.

Get a reference

GET /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/:ref

The ref in the URL must be formatted as heads/branch, not just branch. For example, the call to get the data for a branch named skunkworkz/featureA would be:

GET /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/heads/skunkworkz/featureA
Status: 200 OK
{
  "ref": "refs/heads/featureA",
  "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/featureA",
  "object": {
    "type": "commit",
    "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd"
  }
}

If the ref doesn't exist in the repository, but existing refs start with ref they will be returned as an array. For example, a call to get the data for a branch named feature, which doesn't exist, would return head refs including featureA and featureB which do.

GET /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/heads/feature
Status: 200 OK
[
  {
    "ref": "refs/heads/feature-a",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/feature-a",
    "object": {
      "type": "commit",
      "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd",
      "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd"
    }
  },
  {
    "ref": "refs/heads/feature-b",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/feature-b",
    "object": {
      "type": "commit",
      "sha": "612077ae6dffb4d2fbd8ce0cccaa58893b07b5ac",
      "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/612077ae6dffb4d2fbd8ce0cccaa58893b07b5ac"
    }
  }
]

If the ref doesn't match an existing ref or any prefixes a 404 will be returned.

GET /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/heads/feature-branch-that-no-longer-exists
Status: 404 Not Found
{
  "message": "Not Found",
  "documentation_url": "https://developer.github.com/v3"
}

Get all references

GET /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs

This will return an array of all the references on the system, including things like notes and stashes if they exist on the server. Anything in the namespace, not just heads and tags, though that would be the most common.

You can also request a sub-namespace. For example, to get all the tag references, you can call:

GET /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/tags

For a full refs listing, you'll get something that looks like:

Status: 200 OK
Link: <https://api.github.com/resource?page=2>; rel="next",
      <https://api.github.com/resource?page=5>; rel="last"
[
  {
    "ref": "refs/heads/master",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/master",
    "object": {
      "type": "commit",
      "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd",
      "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd"
    }
  },
  {
    "ref": "refs/heads/gh-pages",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/gh-pages",
    "object": {
      "type": "commit",
      "sha": "612077ae6dffb4d2fbd8ce0cccaa58893b07b5ac",
      "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/612077ae6dffb4d2fbd8ce0cccaa58893b07b5ac"
    }
  },
  {
    "ref": "refs/tags/v0.0.1",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/tags/v0.0.1",
    "object": {
      "type": "tag",
      "sha": "940bd336248efae0f9ee5bc7b2d5c985887b16ac",
      "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/tags/940bd336248efae0f9ee5bc7b2d5c985887b16ac"
    }
  }
]

Create a reference

POST /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs

Parameters

Name Type Description
ref string Required. The name of the fully qualified reference (ie: refs/heads/master). If it doesn't start with 'refs' and have at least two slashes, it will be rejected.
sha string Required. The SHA1 value to set this reference to

Input

{
  "ref": "refs/heads/featureA",
  "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd"
}

Response

Status: 201 Created
Location: https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/featureA
{
  "ref": "refs/heads/featureA",
  "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/featureA",
  "object": {
    "type": "commit",
    "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd"
  }
}

Update a reference

PATCH /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/:ref

Parameters

Name Type Description
sha string Required. The SHA1 value to set this reference to
force boolean Indicates whether to force the update or to make sure the update is a fast-forward update. Leaving this out or setting it to false will make sure you're not overwriting work. Default: false

Input

{
  "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd",
  "force": true
}

Response

Status: 200 OK
{
  "ref": "refs/heads/featureA",
  "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/featureA",
  "object": {
    "type": "commit",
    "sha": "aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd",
    "url": "https://api.github.com/repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/commits/aa218f56b14c9653891f9e74264a383fa43fefbd"
  }
}

Delete a reference

DELETE /repos/:owner/:repo/git/refs/:ref

Example: Deleting a branch:

DELETE /repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/heads/feature-a

Example: Deleting a tag:

DELETE /repos/octocat/Hello-World/git/refs/tags/v1.0

Response

Status: 204 No Content