Brumbies are wild or free-roaming horses found throughout the Australian outback, particularly in the Northern Territory, Northern Western Australia and Queensland.
The first Brumbies originated from horses that were brought to Australia on ships by the early settlers. Arabians, Thoroughbreds, Clydesdales and Draft horses arrived and they were strong, tough and adapted well to the harsh Australian climate, making them ideal for use during the war, as work horses and police horses. Horses that escaped, lost or were not used for work were left to roam free and breed. This caused the population of wild horses or Brumbies to increase and survive in outback Australia.
Today there are large numbers of Brumbies throughout Australia and over the years they have been labelled as a pest. Brumbies have been said to be detrimental to the environment by causing soil erosion, soil compaction, vegetation damage, spreading of weeds and damaging dams and water holes. They may also cause damage to farming infrastructure such as fences, troughs and pipes.
Brumbies have been mustered in the outback with some being handled, broken in and turned into riding horses. Others are slaughtered or sold overseas (particularly to Europe) for their meat. There have also been times of mass culling in order to reduce their environmental impact. They are also being used as a tourist attraction to encourage people to the outback.
The management and handling of brumbies remains a very controversial topic. However one thing is for sure, brumbies are a significant part of Australian heritage and the Australian outback.
Originally published in myPET Magazine Issue 11.
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