Fraser Island/ K’Gari Horses

Waler Data Base @FaceBook. Image: Magna Carta Tree. K’gari. This photo from Fiona Foley’s 2020 photographic series: ‘The Magna Carta’ features a mangrove tree named by cattle farmer, Lindsay Titmarsh, on whose property—Tandora—the tree has been living for over 700 years (about the same age as The Magna Carta).

There was originally a significant Aboriginal population on K’Gari, the Butchulla people, thought to be over 1,000 people. A mission was established there in approximately 1899, Bogimbah Creek Mission, taken over by the Anglican Board of Missions in 1900 and run as a cattle station (Tandora). They kept some good work horses. About 140 adults and 40 children lived there, the population had been drastically reduced over the years, as a result of colonisation.

A big freshwater lake on the island, and several smaller ones, meant water wasn’t an issue.

In 1904 the mission was closed and the people removed from the island as they were poorly treated (and others coveted the buildings and country…)

Shelter at Bogimbah Creek Mission on Fraser Island

Aborigines, some with opium addictions and alcohol dependencies or living where white farmers wanted to run sheep and cattle, were rounded up and sent to live at Bogimbah Mission. Many died of malnutrition and disease in the harsh conditions at the mission that was basically a jail without bars.

Image: Shelter at Bogimbah Mission

From the early 1860’s there was a big timber industry on K’Gari, requiring many work horses. Cattle were also run there, 140 taken there in 1901 due to mainland drought (and many sheep too). The horses were from cattle and timber industry days. Strong, hardy, quiet.

The whole island was made a National Park in 1992. The northern end had been made a National Park in 1971 although sand mining continued until mid 1970’s.

Brumby is an aged mare from K’gari, exceedingly rare. The island was shot out in 2003. A few years before the main massacre a little foal about 3 days old, bewildered and hungry, was found alone on Ellis Road. Her dam was perhaps shot and it’s possible the foal was aborted/premature as often happens when mares are shot.

Brumby gelding from Fraser Island
Brumby from Fraser Island

Bev and a friend found her, they had a lot of trouble getting Parks permission to keep her and take her to safety off the island, but she persisted, well done! and saved the little filly.

Brumby grew into a beautiful, quiet, very gentle mare. She’s been owned for many years now by Bev, and is doted on.

She’s so quiet they just hopped on over the years and went for rides, fond of that Old Waler Saying “I must get around to breaking this horse in one day!”

Brumby’s story (Ellie as she was called when rescued) can be found in the book Equine Epitaph Under the Rainbow: Fraser Island’s Last Brumby, by Fred Williams.

In recent years half a dozen horses were found to have escaped the massacre on the island by remaining hidden in lush bushland, but it’s unknown if they’ve avoided the shooters since discovery, or if they’ve bred, or if they’ve have been removed and offered to homes.

It was a terrible loss of a magnificent type. There was no attempt to remove them and find them homes, nor properly look at a sustainable population. A great loss of old Australian genetics of a horse adapted to heat, sand, mossies and all the environmental factors of the area; these traits take generations to develop and are useful for those living in the same climate – so much easier to keep and use a horse already adapted.

Wonderful to see this beautiful Australian mare, a good artillery Waler type – our most rare type of all along with Ponies, (I’d say heavy but would understand if others thought medium it’s always hard to tell from a photo) and in a fabulous home, well done all, and thank you so much to Simi for sending in Brumby’s photos and details recently. An absolute darling mare.

This buckskin gelding is thought to also be a rescued foal from the time of the K’Gari horse removal (source Audrey, via FaceBook comments on our Waler Data Base post about the mare Brumby, July 2023).

If anyone else knows of any horses from K’gari, Fraser Island, we’d love to hear about them please – and photos very welcome for the website.

The same for any of the amazing ponies from Stradbroke Island (and Curtis Island also). About 25 years ago a person in Brisbane had two Stradbroke Island Ponies saved at the time of the massacre there, but no idea if they’re still alive, or bred, or if any others exist. They looked like Timor Ponies and had been on there sustainably for about a century. All shot now.

Fraser Island gelding

Posted by Enoch Waler

Waler gelding purpose bred to help educate and advocate for Walers, in person and via Facebook and Instagram.