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Is the Brumby horse a pest or part of Australia’s heritage? Meet Australia’s feral bands of Brumbies

Horses first arrived in Australia in 1788, imported for farm and utility work since recreational riding and races were not major activities. It is thought that only around 200 horses had reached Australia by 1800. In 1810, horse racing became popular in Australia, which then resulted in an increase of imports of Thoroughbred horses. By 1820 there were roughly 3,500 horses living in Australia. This number had grown to 160,000 by 1850. Because of the long trip from Europe to Australia, only the strongest horses survived. This made for a healthy and strong Australian stock, which aided in their ability to flourish. 

The Brumby horse breed came about because of horses escaping from their owners and becoming feral. The first report of an escaped horse was in 1804. By 1840, more horses had escaped from the settled areas of the continent. It is very likely that some escaped because of improper fencing or a lack of fencing. But many horses became feral because they were released out into the wild by their owners to fend for themselves. Arid conditions in Australia made farming difficult, so it is likely that some feral horses came from people abandoning their settlements and giving up on trying to farm in the unfamiliar country. After World War I, as in many other areas of the world, the rise of mechanization led to less need for horses in the military and in farming, which led to the growth of unwanted animals who were set free to increase the feral population.

Australia currently has around 400,000 horses roaming free. Despite the large population numbers, the feral horses are only considered to be a moderate pest. If they are allowed to damage vegetation and cause erosion, their environmental impact can be devastating. However, they also have cultural and economic value, which makes their management a complex issue for all those involved. Public concern is a major issue in control efforts, as many people advocate for the protection of the Brumby. This includes the Aboriginal people, who believe feral horses belong to the country. Some organizations are totally against culling, while some accept necessary and humane culling methods to control environmental damage caused by the Brumby bands. The issue is complicated, at best, with passionate people on both sides of the debate.

Love the Brumby horse breed? Click the image to purchase a print!


I’m not Australian, so I don’t feel that I can really comment on whether or not the Brumby is a pest. However, I do feel that any animal population that needs to be managed should be done so in humane and responsible ways. Especially animals that are only on a continent because humans abandoned them there! There are several organizations that advocate for the preservation and humane management of the Brumby horse, including SaveTheBrumbies.

The Brumby image for the Horses of the World series was one of the first where I illustrated two horses in one image. I think it’s a very sweet image, and have had several sales of it just because of the emotion in the image. I love being able to teach people about breeds they aren’t familiar with, so creating a striking image that starts a discussion is very important to me!

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Liz Staley Studios Helping Horses in Bushfire Threatened Areas!

I’ve been seeing the devastating news and photos from the horrible bushfires in Australia and was wishing I could help when it occurred to me last night that there IS a way I can help! For the month of January, a portion of the sale of any of my Brumby design items (prints, ornaments, etc) and the sale of my Equine March 2019 PDF will go to benefit the RSPCA New South Wales Bushfire Appeal to help pets and livestock in threatened and affected areas. I’m so excited about this that I could barely sleep last night so I decided to make this blog post with links to all the places you can purchase my Brumby items and help horses who are caught in this horrible event!

How You Can Help

Purchase any of the items linked below and I will make a donation of a portion of the proceeds to the RSPCA New South Wales Bushfire Appeal to help animals in threatened areas. Items here on will have a slightly higher amount of the proceeds donated, as I do not have to pay fees to list my items, but merchandise in my Etsy shop is also eligible for a donation!

Matted 8×10 Brumby Print (

Handmade Wooden Brumby Ornament (

Equine March 2019 PDF Instant Download

Brumby Original Drawing (Etsy)

Matted 8×10 Brumby Print (Etsy)

Brumby 11oz Ceramic Mug (Etsy)

And, of course, you can also make a donation directly to the RSPCA New South Wales Bushfire Appeal to directly help animals in need! 

Photo from BBC
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Breed Spotlight: Australian Brumby

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 Recently, I completed a new horse breed design of the Brumby horse. 

A Brumby is a free-roaming wild horse in Australia. They are mostly found in the Australian Alps region and the Northern Territory, with the second largest population in Queensland. 

The first recorded use of the term “Brumby” in print was in 1871, and had the connotation of an inferior or worthless animal. Several other origins of the term have also been cited, including the Once A Month magazine suggesting that it came from a South Wales term, “rumbies”. The poet Banjo Paterson stated in the introduction of his poem “Brumby’s Run” that the word is of an Aboriginal origin and means “Wild Horse”. It’s derivation is obscure, and may have come from a number of different sources. This includes being named after Sergeant James Brumby, an Aboriginal word “baroomby” which means wild, and the name of the Baramba creek and station in the Queensland district of Burnett. 

Brumbies are the descendants of escaped or lost horses that in some cases date back to those belonging to the early European settlers, including the “Capers” from South Africa. Timor ponies from Indonesia, British ponies and draft breeds, and Thoroughbreds and Arabians have likely made up a large amount of the Brumby breed. Horses first arrived in Australia in 1788. They were imported for utility and farm work, for recreational riding, and for racing. Only 200 horses had made their way to Australia by the year 1800. An influx in Thoroughbreds came when horse racing became popular around 1810. By 1820, roughly 3500 horses were living in Australia. This number had increased to 160,000 horses in just thirty years. Because of the long journey by sea from England, Europ, and Asia, only the strongest and heartiest horses could survive. This made for a healthy and strong Australian stock and contributed to their ability to flourish. 

The first report of an escaped horse was in 1804. By the 1840’s, some horses had escaped from the settled regions of the country. Some likely escaped from improperly installed and repaired fences. But it is believed that many of the feral horses came from horses released into the wild and left to fend for themselves when pastoralists abandoned their settlements. After World War I, the number of unwanted animals who were set free increased due to a decreased demand for horses and an increase in mechanization. Throughout the 20th century, demand was further decreased thanks to the replacement of horses in farming with machines like tractors. This likely increased the population of wild bands of horses even more. 

Currently, there are around 400,000 horses roaming the continent of Australia. It is estimated that in non-drought conditions the population increases by 20% each year. Drought conditions and brushfires are natural threats to the horses. Despite their high population numbers, the Brumby horse is considered a moderate pest. The impact on the environment can be detrimental in areas where the horses are allowed to damage vegetation and cause erosion. Because the horses also have cultural and economic value, the management of the Brumby bands is a complex issue. 

Today, the Brumby bands live in many places, including some National Parks, such as Alpine National Park in Victoria, Barrington National Park in NSW, and Carnarvon National Park in Queensland. Occasionally they are rounded up and domesticated for use as stock horses, trail horses, show horses, Pony Club mounts, and pleasure horses. 

The Brumby horse is at the center of some controversy. Some people regard them as a pest or threat to native ecosystems. Others value them as part of Australia’s heritage. Supporters work to prevent inhumane treatment and extermination of the Brumby, and also rehome horses who have been captured. Wild Brumbies are used in Brumby training camps by organisations that promote positive interaction between troubled, high-risk youths. These camps usually last several weeks, allowing youths to train a wild Brumby to become a quiet, willing saddle horse while improving the youths’ self-esteem.

You can help these horses at 

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