thier heyday, opinions as to "what is a Waler"
varied according to time and place, according to the
purpose for which they were bred and the preferences
of the breeder concerned.
opinions as to "what was a Waler", and What
is a Waler now", vary according to interpretation
of historical evidence.
approach is to consider all available historical evidence,
identify the horses which maintain those attributes
common to their ancestors and which are in danger
of being lost, preserve them in their offspring.
purchased for military service, for example, varied
according to availability and demand. The W.W.1 Artillery
horse, Mounted Infantry horse, Cavalry Charger, were
different types; and different again from those horses
of the same catagory in the 1930s. Yet all had points
in common which made them Walers; in conformation,
breeding, abilities, temperament.
term Waler was applied to horses bred in the Colony
of New South Wales.
was never limited in application to a Cavalry Charger
old blood and generations of hard living, deprivation
and adaptation which was the Walers foundation cannot
be copied or re-created today.
more information: www.walerhorses.com
breeding, says Mr. Robb is easy provided one keeps
up the quality with the strain and classing breeding
mares so as to use only active medium weight draughts.
In the course of an interview Mr. Robb outlined the
breeding methods which will produce the right kind
of horse. Putting a thoroughbred sire to an active
medium draught mare produced the heavy artillery horse.
The thoroughbred sire is again put to the mare of
this cross to produce the light artillery horse. The
thoroughbred sire again on the second cross produces
the three-part bred remount which should have plenty
of bone and stamina, provided by the draught blood,
while the thoroughbred sire maintains the level of
The Australian medium draft horse was once famous
throughout the world as a willing worker and fast
Indian Remount Trade - Outlet for South Australian
Horses. Adelaide Stock and Station Journal, November
Waler was mainly grass or hay-fed in his own country
and the bigger type did not do well on the short rations
while in South Africa. A report by the Assistant Inspector
of Remounts in South Africa describes the type sent
to that country as "light on the leg, ewe-necked
and angular. Has undeniable quality and was expected
to prove hardy, wiry and untiring. This type has not
done well in South Africa." The small cobs, known
in as "nuggets", were excellent, but the larger
type both from New Zealand and Australia lacked recuperative
powers, though another report spoke well of them. This
report has a description of the small Waler, written
before the South African War, which leaves no doubt
how useful he was. The "nuggets was
a big little" animal, a symmetrical, typical
English three-quarter-bred hunter of 16hands to 16.2,
focused into a height of 13.2 or 13.3 hands with slightly
lower withers. These horses have combined stamina, courage
and speed; their paces, when on a long ride, are a jog
and a canter. They are in Australian parlance "cut-and-come-again"
customers. The smartest stock horses, those in use for
drafting cattle, are also small and handy and well up
to twelve stone.
Regular Army Horse Remounts. - Major G. Tylden
Col. Maygar, V.C. and his grey horse were both severely
walers, already world-famous for their work in India
and in the South African and Russo-Japanese Wars, were
in this company subjected to a searching comparative
test. They proved by common consent incomparably superior
to all their rivals, except perhaps the best of the
horses from the British Islands which included a number
of valuable hunters and officers chargers.
Expert horsemen differed as to the best type of horse
disclosed by the miscellaneous Australian remounts in
the campaign. Some good judges expressed a preference
for the stocky, powerful pony types to be found among
both the Australian and New Zealand regiments. But although
these small animals, many of which possessed Welsh Pony
blood, had many admirers, the lesson of the war was
that, provided a horse had bone and substance, and was
not too eager and fretful, the closer it was to the
English thoroughbred racing strain the more valuable
it was for active service.
The horses of a light horse regiment were not uniform.
They included every type of animal, large sturdy ponies,
crossbreds from draught Clydesdale mares, three-quarter
thoroughbreds, and many qualified for the racing stud-books.
As a consequence of such mixed breeding, they frequently
offended the horse-lovers eye by their faulty
parts. But the one quality they all possessed which
made them superior to the horses from other lands: they
were all, or nearly all, got by thoroughbred sires.
This quality, reflected throughout in their spirit and
their stamina, was their distinguishing characteristic.
During sustained operations, on very short rations of
pure grain and no water over periods which extended
up to seventy hours --- when horses of baser breeds
lost their courage and then their strength - the waler,
though famished and wasted, continued alert and brave
and dependable. The vital spark of the thoroughbred
never failed to respond. As long as these horses had
strength to stand they carried their great twenty-stone
loads jauntily and proudly.
Australian Imperial Force in Sinai and Palestine
1914 -1918. - M.S.Gullet
speaking, the men of the Desert Column had a profound
contempt of the Arab horses which they encountered,
which were out-performed by their larger blood-brothers
from overseas as regards general carrying and endurance.
While the English thoroughbred and his close relative
the Waler sprang largely from Arab progenitors, the
war proved beyond doubt that Western methods of breeding
and rearing had improved these horses beyond comparison
with the original Arab stock.
The Australian Horse at War. - Douglas M. Barrie
South African War had an enormous impact on Australian
horse breeding and caused widespread revision of ideas
of what a good remount should be. The success of the
Boer ponies and the mediocre showing of the heavy chargers
started a craze for small horses among certain remount
breeders. The Victorian Government was impressed sufficiently
to import Welsh Mountain stallions to breed remounts
but others argued against pony sires.
Thoroughbreds, Trotters and event Suffolk Punch draughts
were all touted as ideal stallions for cavalry horse
Some breeders argued for heavier, less hot-headed mounts
and condemned Thoroughbreds for their temperaments,
long legs and low knee actions. One breeder favoured
crossing Suffolk Punch stallions with small blood mares
inclined to be of the pony type. Future remounts, some
predicted, would be small and heavy.
In 1907 E.Dinham Peren, published a pamphlet suggesting
that cavalry horses should have Thoroughbred sires to
guarantee uniformity. The animals were not to exceed
15.2 hh. With good girths, short backs and short, strong
legs. Preferred colours were bay or brown with black
points, or liver chestnut. The writer suggested that
mares should be half or three-quarter blood. He saw
no need or heavyweight chargers in Australia. The pamphlet
advocated Thoroughbred sires for artillery remounts
from Suffolk Punch or good quality cart mares but many
breeders produced useful artillery horses from other
J.J. Gallagher, a cattleman from Krambach. N.S.W. bred
a few remount as a sideline and crossed Suffolk Punch
mares with a son of the famous old stockhorse, Saladin.
The results were solid horses of uniform type and a
neat appearance that never failed to attract military
It must be remembered that military horses did not need
to be uniform in type - as long as they were sound most
could be fitted into the system. Small animals were
frequently bought be officers as polo ponies, medium
sizes became cavalry horses, while heavy stock were
used in artillery or transport.
There were several remount depots scattered about the
country, but the main one was at Maribyrnong in Victoria.
Superb horses, ranging from officers charges to
heavy draught were bred there. Special horses were bred
for each job and there was no attempt to breed one type
for all purposes because needs were so varied.
War Horses, Army Issue or B.Y.O. Greg Mitchell
on mobilisation were issued with rather a variety of
horses, it being quite evident that each buyer had his
own opinion as to the class of animal most suitable
for active service. There is a very old saying that
"horses will gallop all shapes" and in a way
this applies to horses on active service, when they
have to undergo privations of all sorts and still carry
a man and equipment as there are horses of all shapes
and sized that have been right through everything and
done their work all right through, in my opinion there
is one class of horse (if it maybe called a class),
that has stood out above the others as far as hard work
and keeping condition is concerned and that is a low
thick set animal, 14.3 to 15.2 in height, short backed,
well ribbed up, and showing a bit of breeding, aged
about 7 to 12 years.
The finer bred horses did their work well but when it
came to hardships they couldnt keep their condition
like the above mentioned and were consequently more
liable to sore backs. The big coarse horse held condition
fairly well but wasnt up to the fast work.
Memorandum by 3rd Light Horse Brigade Veterinary
Officer. Major Stanley Allen Mountjoy - 8th Lighthorse
125 government of India. Military Department, Fort William,
the 5th August 1875
To The Honble the Chief Secretary, Victoria, Melbourne.
Sir,- I am directed to acknowledge your letter No 949,
dated 19th March,1875, soliciting certain information
on the subject of the supply of remount for the army
in India, and in reply to the inquiries therein made,
to convey to you, for the information of His Excellency
of the Governor, the following answers by the President,
Special Stud Commission, which are accepted by the Government
(a)?Whether it is proposed to purchase mares as well
(b)?The regulation height for horses purchased, and
the heights preferred.
(a)?Mares as well as geldings, with preference given
(b)?Not less than 14 hands and 3 inches, and up to 15
hands 3 inches in height - mean preferred.
West Australian Government Gazette. 21st September
a remount department point of view it has always been
realized that the ideal arrangement for both peace and
war supplies of riding horses, for remount units of
the army would be as follows-
The provision of a universal stamp of rider, suitable
for all units, namely be well bred, active and weight
carrying horse of the heavy weight polo pony or small
hunter type, of an average height just over 15hands.
Australian Archives ACT CRS A1194 Item GB 499/1/560
Horses for India.
Then, too, there are ponies, small horses 14.1: India
could and would take many more of these than she has
now for polo and racing purposes. The "Waler"
pony is in my experience of Indian polo hard to buy,
but he is there the best animal at the game.....There
are a great many Australian and Argentine ponies in
England, which are distinctly inferior animals to the
"Waler" pony. Some of the best of these I
have seen and ridden in India, being very little below
the standard of those famous English and Irish ponies
everyone has heard of as playing at the great English
polo clubs, .....
Horses of the British Empire, (Colonial Horses)
Government of India.
Fort William, the 2nd March 1887
reference to the advertisement of the 16th March 1886,
it is hereby notified that the Government of India
are prepared to purchase about 1,750 horses suitable
for army purposes during the year 1887-88, classed
as follows -
1 - Walers 1,222
Medium Cavalry and Hussars 105
Field Artillery 152 - 350
Horse Artillery 93
Medium Cavalry and Hussars 322
Field Artillery 318 - 872
Horse Artillery 232
Cavalry Trooper The ideal cavalry horse
should (if price has not to be considered) be of
the heavy weight or thick-set of the hunter type.
His chief requirements as regards confirmation are
That he should be up to the weight he has got to carry,
which is usually about 18 stone. But he should on
no account be too heavily topped for his legs, or
for the work he should be called upon to do. His loins,
therefore, should be strong, his shoulder blades long,
and his legs should be as short as is compatible with
the possesion of sufficient speed for military purposes.
2. His legs and feet should be particularly sound
and well able to stand work. As he will be called
upon at times to go fast and to leap, his back his
back tendons should be more or less parallel with
the cannon-bone, and he should have no tendency to
undue width of fetlock.
3. His fore-hand should be light, so that his legs
and feet may continue sound, and that he may be able
to do his school work properly.
4. He should have a good carriage of the head and
neck, so that he may be obedient to the rein.
5. He should be a "good doer," and have
a strong constitution, which will usually be the case
with a horse that has a bright eye; soft, cool skin;
deep rounded barrel; full flank; firm, prominent anus;
and is well ribbed up.
6. In times of peace, the height will usually vary
from about 15.1 to 16 hands; but for war purposes,
when endurance is of paramount importance, the height
should not exceed 15.2 and may be as low as 14.1,
especially if Arabs are employed.
Officer's Charger A cavalry officers first
charger, with all the useful points of the cavalry
trooper, should have undeniably good looks, and a
showy carriage of the head and tail, which should
not be docked. As he will have to carry less, and
will cost considerably more than an animal in the
ranks, he should be well bred, and, with a rider of
ordinary weight, he should approach the type of a
handsome thoroughbred hunter. A second charger should
have all the useful points of a first charger; but
need not be so good-looking. The colour will, as a
rule, depend on regimental regulations. Speaking generally,
he should not be less than 15.3 during peace time;
because a man at the head of a regiment of cavalry,
or of a battery of Horse or Field Artillery, looks
best on a tall horse. On a campaign, the height should
be the same as that advised for a cavalry trooper.
Artillery Horse Artillery horses are divided
into those for Horse Artillery and those for Field
batteries. As the teams of the former have to manoeuvre
with cavalry, and also drag their guns, they require
to be exceptionally strong, smart horses. The latter,
as they are supposed not to go faster than a trot,
are stronger and slower horses than those of the light
cavalry. The wheelers are active, light-built cart-horses.
For their work, they need to be somewhat thick in
the shoulders, short on the leg, and of considerable
weight to stop the gun when the order to halt is given.
The hind-quarters, loins, and the hocks should, therefore,
be particularly strong. The riding-horses of the Nos.I
and markers of field batteries should be of the light
Mounted Infantry Horse should be of the
same type as the cavalry charger, and should be about
Light Vanner which we meet in vans, buses
and tram-cars, should be of similar type to Field
Artillery wheelers; in fact, active, light cart horses
that can trot freely and at fair speed.
of the Horse - Capt. M. H. Hayes. 1897.
blue roan, the mount of the Farrier Quartermaster-Sergeant
of the 7th. Light Horse Regiment, was brought along.
This horse was a great deception. although as ugly as
a milk-cart horse he had a beautiful level action and
could gather into full stride at once."
The Australian Bloodhorse - The Australian Horse
overseas military circles the word was out that the
Australian bush horse was the best all round war horse
in the world. We 'bushies' swore by our ugly-headed
bush horses ....."
Australian Horses at War - Ion Idriess.
Wanted. Wanted to purchase immediately, a pair of
dark Bay, Brown, or Black Geldings, of about 14 1/2
hands - also a Brown Gelding of 14 hands. They must
be of good figure and temper, free from vice or blemish,
and have long tails, being required for a gentleman
in India. A liberal price will be given.
The Sydney Gazette, 30 November 1816.
essence, the Waler was an Australian horse abroad,
working chiefly in the countries washed by the Indian
Ocean, though also in the Middle East and Asia. Initially,
it was a horse bred in New South Wales and imported
to India for military, sporting or domestic purposes,
and the term remained current there for nearly a century,
applying soon to all Australian horses."
Walers, Australian Horses Abroad - Yarwood
would seem that 'Waler' in those early days referred
more to place or origin than to the superior type
of stock or cavalry horse we think of today. Thoroughbreds,
light harness horses, riding ponies and draughts,
all came under the 'Waler' heading. Besides the nickname
however, they did have in common the inherent good
qualities provided by an intelligent selection of
good imported breeding stock from generations before,
together with the peculiar beneficial factors of environment
that Australia's breeding country uniquely implanted
Walers and thier Export in Perspective - Don Tilmouth.
present war in South Africa has emphasised the necessity
for a continuous supply of horses, both for cavalry
remounts and for artillery and transport; and has
also called attention to the nescessity for another
class of horses - namely, one suitable for mounted
infantry. Now the horse suitable for mounted infantry
exists in large numbers at present in Queensland for
size here is not desired, as, a mounted infantryman
having to mount and dismount rapidly, a wiry, well-bred
Galloway ranging from 14.2 to 15 hands is what is
Queensland Agricultural Journal, 1 July 1900. Horse
Breeding for Military Remounts - Ernest A. Smith.
of the batteries of the Australian Mounted Division
had only been able to water its horses 3 times in
the last 9 days ...... had lost only 8 horses from
exhaustion ..... the majority of the horses in the
Corps were Walers, and there is no doubt that these
hardy Australian horses make the finest cavalry mounts
in the world."
The Desert Mounted Corps - Lt. Col.R.M.P. Preston.
'nugget' was a 'big little' animal, a symmetrical
typical English 3/4 bred hunter of 16 H. to 16.2 H.
focused into a height of 13.3 or 13.3 hands with slightly
lower withers. These horses have combined stamina,
courage and speed."
Small Horses in Warfare - Sibley.
the subject of the constitutional strength of "blood"
horses, Mr A. B. Paterson, who is a well known horse
expert, gives us valuable practical information in
The Sydney Mail, of March 15, 1902. He tells us that
the best lot of horses that left Australia for South
Africa, during the late war, were police horses sent
over by the Government, and 50 per cent. of them were
fit to exhibit in any show ring in Australia. They
were a magnificent lot of animals, and for one days
gallop they would have distanced any other lot of
horses at the front. They were the best lot of horses
in Africa, but they did not last long. Their high-strung
nerves and eager dispositions made them inclined to
fret and refuse their food, and after a long march
it was the usual thing to see many of our horses refusing
to eat the poor feeds set before them. They were too
high class to stand hardships and misery.
It is an article of faith with most horsey men that
a well-bred horse will do anything that a commoner
can do, but as a matter of fact, if a drover is going
to go out on a trip involving a certain amount of
starvation for his horses, he would not take well-bred
horses in expectation that they would last the longest.
Points of the Horse - Hayes 1897
included every kind of animal, large sturdy ponies,
crossbreds from draught Clydesdale mares, theree-quarter
thoroughbreds and what was termed "gift horses"
these had been donated by station properties and individuals
to the army to help meet the demand fpr horses for
Many of the larger stations and rural farms of Australia
had good blood line mares and one or two stallions
as well as good stock horse mares, from these they
would breed their own stock for work and with picnic
races and agricultural shows being the highlight of
the year they would endeavour to produce horses that
could hold their own on the country tracks or at the
bush camp drafts. Many of these station blood horses
got away with brumby mobs or were deliberately crossed
with brumby mares or stallions in an effort to gain
a strain of horse with the stamina and hardiness of
the brumby and over generations what was to be dubbed
the "waler" had really come from brumby
foundations. A horse that could through instinct seek
out water and forage for itself, such as in the outback
wilderness of Australia brumby mobs would travel 10
or 15 miles a day to gain water then return to their
own stomping grounds, they had the ability to strip
bark and leaves from trees when grass was in short
supply, and they were used to the harsh summer conditions
of Australias environment.
Used for stock work these station bred horses could
be ridden day after day mustering cattle and by night
simply unsaddled and turned out to look after themselves....
Australian bred horses could travel faster and further
than the coarse breeds favoured by England and they
could far outpace the small ponies used by the Turkish
cavalry. They ate and drank less and as the war progresssed
they were forced to carry up to 17 stone of rider
and equipment, sometimes for distances of 40-50 miles
a day, often through sun scorched sand of the Sinai
almost knee deep, often going without water for 60
The Light Horse, The Australian Horse in War. Time/Life
of the batteries of the Aust. Mounted Division had
only been able to water its horses 3 times in
the last 9 days....... had lost only 8 horses from
exhaustion ........... the majority of the horses
in the Corps were Walers, and there is no doubt that
these hardy Australian horses make the finest cavalry
mounts in the world".
The Desert Mounted Corps., Lt.Col. R.M.P. Preston.
speed was not wanted, but endurance, easy action,
a docile temper and a strong constitution".
we know that Indian polo players prefer Arabs to country
breds, and Australian ponies to either".
Alexander Bruce, Chief Inspector of Stock, says -
' New South Wales had the best saddle horse in the
world, and it supplied India with cavalry and artillery
horses which, in the opinion of practical Indian officers,
cannot be improved upon". Mr. Bruce goes on:
"These horses (ie. the the Walers) were highly
appreciated by every military man who served in India
for their speed, pluck and endurance'.
that in the period between say, Waterloo and the Crimea.
...Australia possessed he best saddle horses in the
size of horses in a wild state living in herds has
a tendency to degenerate in size, but becoming more
hardy as the weaklings are illiminated by the necessities
ninteenth century Australian horse:- 'They were stylish,
stout, well shaped, rather short-logged useful horses,
with good clear bone, sound legs and feet".
they concealed their excellences under a plain exterior'.
It was no uncommon thing for horses fed on nothing
but the natural grasses of the country to carry an
ordinary sized man eighty, and in some cases even
a hundred miles, in the twenty four hours'.
The Australian horse is small, on the average, as
compared to the English horse - he is light boned,
but the bone is of good quality; he has, as a rule,
well laid shoulders, and a light forehand".
who used to ride Arabs as chargers or hunters now
use ''Walers'".....' I remember him well, a brown
horse with a fiddle head, a calm eye, good shoulders,
a goose rump and the very best of legs'.
of the British Empire (Colonial Horses)
durability or permanence of a breed is dependent only
on certain conditions of life TO which it is adapted.
There is no such thing as absolute permanence of any
form of breed." from "A History of Horse Breeding"
by Daphne Machin Goodall.
Bloomfield, Loves Creek Station, Northern Territory,
who in his youth was actively involved in Waler breeding
for the local and Indian market. ".... field artillery
wheel... nuggety type of horse about 15.2, not a heavy
horse,an active horse, ....field artillery lead....15.3
to 16H., then the remount - a fairly strong horse
with plenty of bone about 9 or 10 inches. And of the
officer's horse ....more like the breedy Thoroughbred
types . The Indian buyers had a sideline here of polo
ponies, light weedy Thoroughbred type for the polo
player, 14.2 to 15H."
Mr. Biggs of South Australia, who was in Waler breeding
and 'breaking' on stations which bred horses for such
well known and respected buyers as Lowe, Robb and
Kidman. "Breeders culled for a fine wiry type....
so in hindsight it is the very harsh climate of the
Australian bush that produced the horse. Contrary
to popular belief, man really had little to do with
producing these fine horses, the exception was culling
the misfits and gelding unsuitable colts. A type of
general purpose horse indigenous to the Australian
outback, often bred in a semi-wild state with minimal
Mr. Hallihan of Victoria who 'broke in' horses for
the Army some 60 years ago. "Its hard to describe
him (the Waler) because he has the attributes of a
lot of horses, a light delivery type of horse. The
dry country is basically for the Waler type of horse..
..most of these are pretty good types." On the subject
of breeding,"....it was managed according to the way
the horses bred. If they bred a bit heavy for the
job they wanted, they put in a lighter horse, or if
they were too big they put a pony and turned them
loose and they sorted themselves out.... under theharsh
conditions they were mainly reared in. It was all
free range breeding. My son worked a season on Alexandria
Station (N.T.) last- year and there were a few there
but not many left."
Mr Clements of North Queensland who bought and shipped
horses to India also about 60 years ago. He accompanied
these horses aboard the 'Janus'. "We used to have
the quiet horses come from Victoria, they used to
be broken in.. ..pull buggies, ..they were practically
Walers, they weren't light you know, between a stock
horse and an ordinary stallion.... bred from an ordinary
mare to a good sort of horse....he wouldn't be a blood
stallion but he'd be a good class one, but the mare'd
be just of what we'd call a quarter draught."
above people and documentary evidence confirm that
Suffolk Punch, Timor Pony, Percheron, Clydesdale,
Welsh Pony and Thoroughbred were some of the breeds
recorded as being imported to stations producing Walers.