Brumby horses are feral free roaming animals found in the Alps region of southeastern Australia. They are descendants of lost or escaped animals, and a group of them are called a "band" or a "mob".
First used in 1880, in a Melbourne magazine, the term "Brumby" is the bush name in Queensland. The name may have come about by one of these possibilities:
- Baramba was a station in Queensland established in the 1840's and later abandoned, leaving some of the horses to escape into the wild.
- When Sargenat James Brumby left his property at New South Wales to go to Tasmania in 1804, he left some of his horses.
- An Aboriginal word meaning "wild" is "baroomby".
- It could also be derived from the irish word "bromach" or "bromaigh".
Arriving on the first fleets, it is said that the horses were brought to Australia for utility and farm work in 1788. By the year 1820, roughly 3,500 horses were living in Australia due to the thouroughbred being imported from England. This was in part due to growing popularity of racing. The long journey by sea from Asia and Europe meant that only the strongest animals survived, and there were 160,000 by 1850.
The Australian Brumbies might come in any variation of color and are a short to medium type of horse. They can have coats of cream color to apaloosa or chestunut and red. These feral horses of Australia show a somewhat random and sporadic build that will range from shorter and stubbier legs like ponies, to leaner and longer legs and have powerful haunches, straight shoulders, and short backs. Their average heights rarely exceeds fifteen hands.
The Pangare Brumbies from the southern coast of Geraldton, Western Australia seem to carry a rare gene commonly seen in a color range as mealy, with chestnut horses having flaxen colored manes and tails. Alongside this gene you will see what appears to be lightening in parts of the horse's coat around the belly, flanks, forearms, and muzzle. These are seen mainly in a number of old breeds such as British Ponies, Belgian Draught horses, Haflingers, and Tinor Ponies. The horses have adapted so well to this area that the Outback Heritage Horse Association of Western Australia (OHHAWA) and the Department of Environment and Conservation are monitoring these horses to ensure careful management of the special animals.
Like Mustangs, Australian Brumbies are a nightmare to tame. They are truly wild animals. They are very difficult and can be impossible as riding horses. The Brumby horse is a truly magnificent animal, though they have stubborn personalities.
In 1960, the Brumbies nearly went extinct in Australia due to a drought. These horses were left to die slow painful deaths. While still again in 2001 there was an actual slaughter of Brumbies by the Australian Government and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This was handled horribly, and many did not die right away, but suffered for days. The National Park and Wildlife Service was sued and a formation of the Save the Brumbies Inc. was established.
In 1990 an awareness/documentary film titled "Brumby Horse Run Wild", was made. It went over the history and the current pros and cons of this flourishing wild horse breed. In some of the Australian outback the Brumbies are still seen as a pest because their hooves are so tough that they make unwanted paths in some areas, and destroy others. Their very numbers are a concern and their droppings contain bacteria which creates dieseases that are harmful to other breeds of horses.
There is no long-term national management policy in Australia. This makes a person wonder why there is no kind of sanctuary for the preservation and protection of these beautiful animals.