Brumbies are an integral part of Australia’s culture. They are also called wild bush horses. They find a mention in poems, books, paintings and films in Australia.
It was in the year 1788 that brumby horses first arrived in Australia. They had accompanied the First Fleet. The brumbies are wild horses. There are many theories regarding the origin of the term brumby.
This term has slightly negative vibes associated with it. The term signified inferior or worthless animals. Brumby shooting was the name given to the culling of wild horses that were regarded as pests. In the year 1880, the Australasian magazine claimed that brumbies were the bush name given to wild horses in Queensland.
About 200 horses reached Australia by the 1800s. The popularity of horse racing in the early nineteenth century resulted in a surge of Thoroughbreds from England. Only the toughest horse breeds survived the extensive journey by sea. They gave birth to healthy Australian stock.
Till the early nineteenth century horses were found only in Sydney. In the early nineteenth century, the settlers crossed the Blue Mountains. Some horses started escaping from the settled regions in Australia. Some were left out into the wild.
When farming in Australia became difficult the pastorals abandoned their settlement and horses. Growing mechanization led to a reduction in demand for horses from the defense forces. This in turn increased the number of unwanted animals who were left free to fend for themselves.
Machines replaced horses in farming and this reduced the demand for horses. All these factors contributed to an increase in the population of wild horses.
They are considered pests due to their ability to damage vegetation. Control of the brumby population is necessary to save the vegetation. If left unchecked brumby population can increase by 23% annually. Fertility control, mustering and trapping and ground and helicopter shooting are some methods used to control the population of brumbies.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service shot around 600 brumbies in the Guy Fawkes River National Park in October 2000. This resulted in a public outcry. The NSW government set up a steering committee to decide on alternative methods of population control.
During 2006 and 2007 in Kosciuszko National Park the National Park and Wildlife Service culled 64 horses. A plan was prepared by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service to use passive trapping to reduce the brumby population in the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. Brumbies seized in Apsley River Gorge have been rehoused.
There was a third phase of culling of brumbies in 2008. This phase was aerial culling which involved the shooting of horses from a helicopter in Carnarvon National Park. In May 2020, the Federal Court in Victoria ruled in favor of the culling of brumbies in Victoria’s Alpine National Park.
The New South Wales government has made a lot of effort to protect the brumby. They passed a law in 2019 to protect the Snowy Mountains Brumbies.
In 1996, the newly formed ACT Brumbies, a rugby union team adopted brumby as an emblem. Automaker Subaru launched a small coupe utility in Australia and called it Brumby.
The brumbies had highly attuned senses. They are intelligent, hardy and agile. They are sure-footed and have a good temperament. Brumbies can live in difficult climatic conditions. Brumbies are sensitive and develop a good bond with human beings. They can be trained easily. They are faithful to their owners.
Brumbies are social animals. They live in herds with a social hierarchy. The herd consists of 1 to 4 stallions, 5 to 11 mares and their children. Alpha males are at the top of the herd. They remain at the back of the herd and move to the front during threats.
The brumbies use facial gestures, vocalization and bodily stances to communicate with each other. They reproduce once annually. Spring is the season of their reproduction. Female brumbies give birth to a single offspring at a time. Twins are a rare occurrence. Females choose a quiet location and give birth during the night.
Brumbies eat leaves and grass in the wild. Brumbies can survive on less food and water as compared to domestic horses. Brumbies also feed on stems, nuts, grains, broad leaf plants and wood.
They drink water at night. Their stomach is small. They graze for around 15 to 17 hours daily. They consume soil and visit salt licks. This fulfills the requirements of essential minerals in their diets.
Breeding And Uses
The brumbies were first brought to Australia for farm and utility work. Their expansion throughout Australia resulted in the horses being used for travelling and cattle and sheep droving in the pastoral industry.
These working horses have been domesticated and used in farms and stations. They have even been used as show and pleasure horses. The management of brumbies is a complex issue as they have cultural and potential and economic value.
The brumbies were used in World War I. They worked during the gold rush. Brumbies have been seized and used for research. Brumbies are fitted with GPS tracking collars and their watering patterns, diet, mob structure and paths of movement are closely studied. This gives researchers an idea about the impact of different terrains on the morphology and health of horses hooves.
The Australian Brumby Horse Register is meant for preserving their bloodlines. The owners of this breed are encouraged to register their horses and celebrate their breeding. There are events like Man From Snowy River Bush Festival, Brumby Week and the Australian Brumby Challenge held in Australia. These events celebrate the uniqueness of the brumby breed.
Organisations like Save the Brumbies oppose culling of brumbies. The NEBS (New England Brumby Sanctuary) was set up in the year 2007 in New England, New South Wales. The brumbies live peacefully in this sanctuary in their herds. There is also a brumby adoption program that encourages the adoption of brumbies.
The brumbies are small animals. Brumbies grow to a height of 12-16.2 hands. They weigh around 600 to 900 kg. Male and female brumbies look similar. They are of the same size.
What Breeds Make Up The Brumby Horse?
No particular breed can claim to be the brumbies ancestor. Various breeds of escaped horses contributed to the brumbies lineage. These include British Pony, Timor Pony from Indonesia and numerous breeds of draught horses. A number of Arabian and Thoroughbreds also contributed to the brumbies lineage.
The brumbies can be classified into separate breeds like Pangare Pony and Coffin Bay Pony. The Pangare Ponies carry the rare Pangare gene. They are found in Western Australia.
The brumbies can be seen in a variety of colors like yellow, black, brown, red and white. Their coat also has numerous patterns like pinto, spots and patterns.
What Do They Look Like?
The brumbies have a huge head. Their back is strong and short. Their feet are sturdy and sound. Brumbies have a muscular body. They have long tails and strong teeth specialized for grazing. They have long lean legs. Brumbies have good hearing, sense of smell and strong eyesight.
What Are They Used For?
Modern-day brumbies have the following uses:
- Therapy horses
- Pony club mounts
- Trail horses
- Show horses
- Ranch horses
Where Do They Live?
These feral horses are found in many parts of Australia. You can find the finest variety of brumbies in the Australian Alps region. A majority exists in the Northern Territory. Queensland houses the second largest population of brumbies.
Brumbies prefer living in wetlands, marshes, tropical grasslands, rocky ranges and temperate ranges. They can travel long distances in search of food and water. Brumbies exist in all states and territories of Australia except Tasmania.
How Long Do They Live?
Brumby foals are well developed at birth and stand on their feet within an hour of birth. They start walking within four to five hours. They are fully weaned around two years of age. By the time they are two months old, the foals start foraging independently. These horses have a lifespan of around 20-30 years.
Brumby horses carry tick fever. They may transmit this ailment to other horses and cattle. They can also transfer diseases like African Horse Sickness and equine influenza to domestic horses.
Brumbies can also be carriers of the parasite Cryptosporidium parvum. This parasite contaminates drinking water and causes serious gastroenteritis in human beings.
How Fast Are They?
They are active during the morning and evenings. They prefer to rest in the afternoons. They can run fast due to their sturdy hooves.
How Much Do They Cost?
The price of brumbies varies according to their age and training levels. The prices can start from around $700 and go up to $3500 for well-trained brumbies.
Are They Good For Beginners?
Brumbies are trustworthy horses and good for beginners. They are quiet and low maintenance. Training a brumby requires an experienced trainer. But once they are trained, brumbies are easy to handle.
Conclusion / Summary
Brumbies are individualistic horses with a mind of their own. Once you manage to train a brumby it will never let you down. They have an intrinsic ability to navigate difficult terrains. Brumbies are an affordable option for many families with children.