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Feral Horses (Brumbies)

History

Horses arrived in Australia in 1788, with the first fleet of prisoners.  Most of the them arriving from the Cape Colony.  The horses which were most able to adapt to the environment were the ones which survived and bred.  Escapes from caretakers and poor fencing contributed to the population growth of the wild horses; the first record of this occurring was in 1804.  As machines replaced horses, many domesticated horses were purposely released into the wild to join the brumbies.

Why They Were Introduced

The horses were mainly used for utility and for working on the farms.

Problems

Feral horses cause a significant amount of environmental damage.  Soil erosion is one problem feral horses cause.  The hooves dig into the ground, and because horses have a tendency to repeatedly travel along the same path, soil erosion is the final result.  Another problem with feral horses is that they endanger the local wildlife.  Because of their weight, many times they will collapse wildlife burrows.  They also consume large amounts of vegetation, depriving native wildlife of their staples.  In general, feral horses interrupt the balance of the land and continually compete with native wildlife, which may eventually drive them to extinction.

Improving the Situation

Two methods of control have been recognized as means to improve the negative impacts of the feral horses.  Mustering (gathering) and relocating is one method.  The brumbies are transferred from one location to another by means of motorbikes, horseback, or helicopter.  They may be sold for recreational purposes, or relocated to a horse reserve.  Slaughtering the horses for pet food is another means of control.  The third control technique, which is relatively expensive, is helicopter shooting by trained shooters.

Status

Feral horse populations increase yearly by twenty percent.  As of now, their number is estimated at 300,000.

Written By:  Rebecca Hahn

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