Name of breed: Brumby
Country of origin: Australia
Breed origin: ‘Brumby’ is the name given to Australia’s wild horses. Populations exist in every state and territory except Tasmania thanks to a huge variety of reasons and events. The first horses came to Australia with the First Fleet in 1788. Only seven survived this initial voyage, and for many years the trials of the journey from Europe meant that only the hardiest animals reached Australia. Combined with Australia’s unpredictable and sometimes harsh conditions and early settlers’ lack of local knowledge, the nation developed with tough, resilient breeding stock from day one.
The first ‘Brumbies’ are said to have belonged to James Brumby, a farrier whose horses roamed freely in the bush around his property in New South Wales after he left for Tasmania in 1804. Brumby populations followed Australia’s explorers and farmers across the land as horses escaped, as they were lost and abandoned, and even as their riders died. This gave the breed a huge range of influences, from Clydesdale to Thoroughbred to Timor Pony to Arabian to stock horses. Left to fend for themselves, natural selection took over and the Brumbies became well-adapted to their environment: agile, hardy and intelligent, with highly-attuned senses. Circumstance also gave rise to some Brumby types so different that they are classified as separate breeds: the Coffin Bay Pony and the Pangaré Pony.
The many physical ‘types’ that developed made them popular as war horses in World War I and II and the Boer War, as police mounts, and as working horses during the gold rush. However, reliance on horses decreased over the 20th century and demand for Brumbies dissipated, while abandoned horses increased wild populations. A growing awareness of the potential damage wild horses could to do some of Australia’s fragile ecosystems meant that Brumbies suddenly became pests. Mass culls were undertaken to control Brumby populations, sometimes with the intention of wiping them out altogether. In the 90s, community opposition to culling grew and organisations were established to protect and advocate for Brumbies. The conflict between conservation and preservation, between the Brumbies’ feral status and their value as living, breathing Australian heritage, is ongoing. Brumbies still do not have a guaranteed future in the wild, and culls still occur regularly in many places. A balance between land management and Brumby management must be found if the breed is to survive. Luckily, the Brumby’s place in our hearts has only grown in the 21st century, with events like the Australian Brumby Challenge and the Man from Snowy River Bush Festival celebrating Brumbies as both a unique part of Aussie culture and a fantastic breed to own and ride.
Distinguishing features: Brumbies are sure-footed, intelligent, hardy, alert, trainable and versatile. They have a good temperament, hard hooves, strong bones and generally sound conformation. Their height, colouring and conformation varies greatly from one mob to the next.
Modern day Brumby: While most Brumbies remain wild, those that are domesticated are put to many uses. They make fantastic stock horses, especially in arid environments where other horses may not thrive. The Australian Brumby Horse Register encourages owners to register their horses, celebrate their breeding, and preserve Brumby bloodlines. This has led to the inclusion of Brumbies at breed-specific competitions and more widespread recognition of their unique qualities. Brumbies excel as therapy horses, pony club mounts, show horses and trail horses.
Fancy taming your very own wild Aussie Brumby? Check out the Desert Brumby Safari!
Image credits: Sciblogs, Pinterest, Discover Central Australia.