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Brumbies • Feral and Wild Horses of Australia

Brumby - Feral and Wild Horses of Central Australia

Feral horses in Australia are known as ‘brumbies’. Our most famous being those found in the Snowy Mountains and Victoria Alps regions, and made famous by both the poet Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson in his poem ‘The Man From Snowy River’, as well as the movie by George Miller.

The first horses to arrive in Australia were those in 1788. Due to the conditions they were brought over under, only the fittest survived. Other irregular shipments soon followed. When horse racing was recognised as a sport in 1810, thoroughbreds were imported from England to Australia.

Australian ‘wild horses’ come from multiple sources such as draught and thoroughbred. Feral herds developed from domestic horses that have escaped. Some would mingle with horses that were allowed to roam naturally. Many wild horses in the Northern Territory and Central Australia region are descendents from properties in the region that once specialised in breeding horses as army remounts. Today these wild horses are considered a pest in some regions, whilst a tourist attraction in others.

Where did the name brumby originate?
There are a number of stories relating to the origin of the name ‘brumby’ including being derived from the cattle station Baramba, or a horse breeder named Major Brumby, or derived from the Irish word bromach / bromaigh ‘a colt’ or from the Aboriginal word ‘booramby’.

Another source of the name is thought to have been derived from James Brumby, who arrived on the Britania in 1794. James Brumby was a soldier with the New South Wales Corps. He was also a farrier and it is said that he was responsible for some horses in the early Australian Colony. When he moved to Tasmania in 1804, it is said that he left some horses in New South Wales. When people asked who owned the horses, the reply was “they are Brumby’s”.

Where can I see brumbies?
Australia has the largest number of wild horses in the world, and although the brumbies of the Australian Alps region are probably the most famous, today the majority of them are found in the Northern Territory and Queensland, followed by Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Victoria respectively.

Visitors to Central Australia and the Finke Gorge National Park, may see wild horses (or brumbies) in the region, although the horses are restricted from entering the main park area of the park including Palm Valley, by a electric fence.

These wild horses are descendents of the domestic horse, with many of the horses in the Northern Territory and Central Australia coming from properties that once specialised in breeding horses as army remounts. With mechanisation displacing the mounted cavalry, many of these horses, like the camel, were left to roam free.

Guy Fawkes River National Park brumbies in northern New South Wales, are known as the Guy Fawkes Heritage Horses.


Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equus
Genus: Equus
Species: E. ferus
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Other links - Brumby

1 Feral Animals in Australia(2005, June 13). Virginia Woodland
2 Brumby. (2007, January 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 04:54, January 25, 2007, from
3 Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association Inc,
4 Wild Horses Running Wild - Chasing Our Brumby. Frederick Ludowyk,
Horse Communication Includes some info on Brumbies - The Australian Wild Horses.
Guy Fawkes Heritage Horse Association Inc
Horses were allowed to run free since the 1930s, and it is no surprise that small mobs of these horses became wild.
Oklahoma State University Department of Animal Science
Include some information on the Australian Brumby.
The Australian Brumby Information and other links on Australia’s brumbies.
The Waler Horse Society of Australia
About the Waler Horse, from its historical background to today.
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