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Brumby - Horse Breed & Info

Characteristics of the Brumby

Brumby Article and Photos Copyrighted - see credits below

After the great Australian Gold Rush in the early 1850’s, numerous horses who were the forebearers of the Walers and Stock Horses, were turned loose in the bush. This is the Brumby horse. Brumbies are the equivalent of the American Mustang.

Where the name Brumby came from is uncertain. History gives us two possibilities: the Aboriginal word for wide is baroomby. There is another possibility that the name derived from a person, after James Brumby, a farrier that cared for the imported horses in the early days of Australia’s colonization.


Herds of the feral Brumbies are found in several areas of Australia, with major concentrations in the northern part of the Northern Territory, the central part of the Gulf of Carpentaria, around Alice Springs in Central Australia, east of Birdsville, and in part of Western Australia and Queensland. The major portion live in the Northern Territory, and the second largest portion live in north Queensland.

Over the years, wild herds grew ever larger while the animals degenerated in type and quality. Australia has the largest number of feral horses in the world. The Brumby horse became so numerous that in the 1960’s an extensive culling operation was begun.

These horses posses great ingenuity for survival in very harsh circumstances. One example is the learned behavior of the horse digging a deep hole for water, in a dried river bed in the harsh Northern Territory. The actions of the horses in desperation, have the benefit of providing ways for cattle and indigenous wild life to also gain access to water in drought situations


The Brumby can be any color and ranges in size from 14 to 15 hands. Their heads are a bit heavy, with a short neck and back and straight shoulders, with sloping quarters. However, due to the fact that some Brumbies carry a good deal of Thoroughbred blood, often some are found to be quite refined and well conformed. It will come as no surprise that they have very strong legs, are terribly courageous and their powers of endurance are perhaps the greatest in the world. There is little doubt that the Brumby would be a good candidate for endurance competitions, as nature is the best breeder of tough, enduring horses.


The Brumby is considered by many Australians, and a number of overseas people to be an Australian icon. Others feel that the Brumby is a pest and needs eradicating. Feral horse management is a complex issue because while they are serious environmental pests, they can also have cultural and economic value. While feral means just that, the horse, with the exception of Przewalski’s Horse, will always respond to kindness and gentle handling and become as tractable as any domesticated horse. Some Brumbies are captured and broken in for riding, but this is not a widespread practice. Australia today is a country rich in good horses obtainable by easier means.

The Brumby was memorialized in the move The Man from Snowy River . In this movie, when the hero’s mare is kidnapped by a pack of wild Brumbies, only another horse also raised in the wild is able to perform the physical feats necessary to round them up. The horses in the Snowy River (Guy Fawkes area) , which were the basis of this movie are the very ones in danger of government culling.

The plight of the wild Brumby and America’s wild Mustang are similar. There are many reasonable humans who wish to see and end, or a containment of wild horse herds and many equally reasonable reasons to preserve such herds. However there is no doubt that the Brumby, just like the Mustang, has much more to offer man beyond the extinction of the wild horse

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In the USA, the Adopt-A-Horses Program initiated by the Bureau of Land Management is seeking to resolve the Mustang situation and in Australia it is the Brumby Watch and other organizations.