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What is an Australian wild horse called?

What is a wild horse called in Australia? And why!

Wild horses hold an air of beauty and mystery, and Australia has many of them, particularly in the Australian Alps.

Perhaps they were the inspiration for rock band U2’s song “Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses”?

But what is a wild horse called in Australia? And why?

An Australian wild horse is called a Brumby, but where did this name originate?

Let’s find out!

Why are Australian wild horses called “Brumbies”?

The origins of the word Brumby have been lost over time, but we have a few theories.

One theory is it comes from the Irish word “bromaigh”, which means “stray” or “wanderer”. It seems fitting given the nature of Australian wild horses.

We’ve all heard of brooms, but did you know the word in British dialect means “wild” or “untamed”. This is possibly another origin of the name Brumby.

It’s also possible the name is an adaptation of the Aboriginal word for “fugitive” or “runaway”, which is “baroomby”.

I don’t know about you, but I favour this last theory as the correct one. It’s easy to assume Australian settlers adopted the name from Aboriginal natives.

According to Edward Morris in the book A dictionary of Austral English (1898), “baroomby” is specific to the Pitjara Indigenous Australians who hail from the Warrego and Nogoa River region in southern Queensland.

The book suggests the word originated from the region around 1864, but there’s some evidence the first recorded use of the word Brumby was in 1859 to describe a wild horse in Victoria.

What is a Brumby?

Brumbies are often feral, meaning they have reverted back to their wild state after being domesticated. The first Brumbies in Australia were escapees from early European settlers.

You may find yourself surprised how many thousands of Brumbies there are in Australia today, especially considering Australia was first settled less than 250 years ago, in January 1788.

How many Brumbies are there in Australia?

Increasing at a rate of 20% per year, there are now over 400,000 Brumbies in Australia!

Because Brumbies aren’t managed by humans, they can be found in a variety of different habitats across the country.

They look similar to other horses, and you can easily assume they are, but brumbies can be distinguished by their distinctive markings and colour patterns.

Brumbies have at times shown to be dangerous to humans due to their feral nature, so if you see one in the outback it’s best to stay cautious. They’re not used to us humans like domesticated horses are!

Today, Australian wild horses are known to cause environmental damage to sensitive alpine habitats. Because of this, their control is an ongoing issue for park management agencies.

Interesting facts about Brumbies

  • The Brumby is now a heritage symbol of the Australian Highlands, where they were made famous by Banjo Paterson’s poem ‘The Man from Snowy River’.
  • The largest populations of Brumbies are found in Queensland, New South Wales, and Victoria.
  • Brumbies range in height from 1.3m to 1.6m, weighing between 600kg and 900kg, and are difficult to distinguish from regular horses.

Are Brumbies used in Australian pet foods?

Foodie Pooch is essentially a dog blog, so let’s sidetrack a little here and discuss whether Brumbies are used in dog food.

The answer is yes, and some Australian pet meat suppliers actively market and sell Brumby meat for dogs.

We have also seen issues arise when pet meat suppliers and knackeries sell consignments of wild horses to unsuspecting pet owners labelled as other meats.

As recently as last year (2021), Victorian authorities investigated pet mince was being sold made from toxic horse meat from the Northern Territory.

The horse meat, contaminated with toxin indoscpicine from native plants, should have been destroyed, but ended up being sold to unsuspecting pets owners.

Many of whom lost their dogs.

Indospicine toxicity can be a problem in other meats as well, such as beef, both wild caught feral cattle and cattle from stations which are farmed for human consumption too.

Brumby – A celebration of Australia’s wild horses

Before we wrap up on Brumbies, there’s a wonderful book if you want to learn more about our wild horses:

What is a wild horse called in Australia?
Brumby: A celebration of Australia’s wild horses, by Kathryn Massey & Mae Sun Lee

Not only is the photography beautiful, this is such an insightful “coffee table” – Brumby – A celebration of Australia’s wild horses by Kathryn Massey & Mae Sun Lee.

An introduction:

If you’re quiet enough in the Australian bush you might just hear the cracking of a branch under hoof or see a ghost-like silhouette among the gum trees.Elusive, mysterious, the stuff of legend — this is Australia’s wild horse, the Brumby.

Brumbies have captured the hearts and minds of a nation for over 150 years.

From the ever-vigilant stallion with steam billowing from his flaring nostrils as he rises upon a mountain ridge at dawn, to sightings of mares and foals galloping across the desert plains, Brumbies are a cornerstone of the Australian identity.

Immortalised in films, books and poems — from the iconic The Man from Snowy River to the ever-popular Silver Brumby series — they epitomise both a spirit of freedom and the Australian landscape.

About the authors

Kathryn Massey

Kathryn Massey is a metallurgist and industrial chemist by profession but a Brumby advocate in heart and soul!

The founder and president of the Hunter Valley Brumby Association, Kathryn devotes herself to rescuing, training and adopting out Brumbies to ‘forever’ homes.

As well as caring for the Brumbies at the HVBA sanctuary, Kathryn is the owner of Brumbies Diesal and Bella; her domestic horses, Siesta and Rebel; her German Shepherd, Ranger; and Thomas the cat.

Why is an Australian wild horse called a Brumby?

Mae Lee Sun has worked as a freelance journalist/photographer, editor and animal welfare advocate for over fifteen years.

Her articles and essays have appeared in numerous newspapers and literary journals and range in topic from women’s issues to green technology.

Mae Lee is currently the editor of Wild Horse Journal.

She holds MAs in both Sociology and Buddhist Studies, and while originally from the United States, now resides in Victoria with her partner Bruce, her Brumby Trooper; four domestic horses, Charlie, Tex, Max and Shadow; three dogs- Coco, Milo, Zach; and two cats, Raskull and Sabbath.

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