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The Waler Horse

The Waler horse has two breed Associations interested in preserving it. The most recent is the Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Australia Inc. (WHOBAA) and the other the longer established group Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc (WHSA). There appears to be no love lost between groups. It is not the role of the Trust to pick sides and say which group represents the Waler in a better manner, but it is our role to support groups which are undertaking the role of maintaining the genetic purity of pure breeds rather than breeding them back from phenotypical stock (animals that look like the genetically pure breed).

Any group purporting to represent a purebreed must have a register or Herd Book which traces the genetic history of each animal from its purebreed origins. Without this, there is no guarantee of genetic purity.

We leave it to members to decide which of the below groups represent the best genetic integrity of animals in registers kept. It should be noted that both websites are very similar in name WHOOBA being http://walerhorses.com and WHSA being http://walerhorse.com

Ian Mullins (Webmaster, 2006)


WHOBAA (Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Australia Inc) - http://walerhorses.com

About the Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Australia Inc. (WHOBAA)

WHOBAA was Incorporated in 2005 by a number of foundation and original members who started The Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc. in 1986 to establish a studbook for Waler Horses, preserve and maintain the horse as an integral part of our Australian History, establish it as a distinct Breed with inherent, definable and recognisable characteristics.
During the Northern Territory Government's "Tuberculosis Brucellosis Eradication Scheme' in the mid ‘80s, which aimed to eradicate all feral animals from the Territory, a large number of horses were being mustered then trucked to meat works for pet food and overseas consumption or being inhumanly shot from helicopters by methods seen most recently in the Guy Fawkes brumby cull in November 2000. It was established by the foundation members of that Society, (now founders of WHOBAA), that a number of the properties where horses were being culled were actually properties where the descendents of the original lines of horses sold or used as Remount, Stock and working horses, had been turned out after they were no longer required. Several truckloads of Walers were saved from eradication and relocated to secure homes throughout Australia. Similar efforts continued over the years with a number of horses from various isolated localities being saved.
In 2005 it was deemed necessary by a number of the founding and original members of the original Society to reform under the WHOBAA banner in order to maintain what we believe to be the ideals as originally formulated. This resulted in the recognition and acquisition of horses from Newhaven Station, which would have otherwise been sacrificed.
The primary aim of the Association is to preserve this unique Australian horse by defining the Waler horse, maintaining a Studbook, setting and policing Standards, preserving inherited characteristics, thus establishing the Waler as a Breed (as distinct from a type).
The Association aims to build awareness within the horse world and the wider public of the identity of our own horses, their importance as part of our Australian pioneering heritage and history. Further to this, the recognition of the Walers inherent abilities and attributes will ensure its future in the future.
Historical Background
The name 'Waler' is derived from the term 'New South Waler', a horse bred in New South Wales, and Australia's first colony. It was first used in India in the mid 1800’s to differentiate horses from the Colony of New South Wales from other horses such as “Country Breds” and “Capers”. Rajahs also bought Walers for military and recreational use such as polo. Walers, through the flourishing remount trade, requirements for polo ponies, “gentlemans mounts and carriage horses” were sold to India from the 1840's to the 1940's and were supplied to the Australian Army for the Boer War and World War I, where their feats of endurance and courage became legendary. Although again supplied to the Army in World War II, the horses were not sent overseas being perceived as redundant with the availability of mechanization.
In 1788, the First Fleet, of eleven ships brought out two stallions and four mares and foals from the Cape of Good Hope, English horses having perished on the perilous sea journey. Subsequent ships also brought out Cape horses, such as the Britannia, which landed in 1795 with thirty-three horses. English horses also began arriving safely, the influential thoroughbred stallion, Rockingham, was brought out in 1799. About this time, the Governor of New South Wales asked for more heavy horses, specifying Scottish Clydesdales. Timor ponies were shipped over from northern islands.
Increasing demand for saddle and workhorses led to the migration of the best of old English breeds, which combined with the Cape horses and the Timor pony, went into the melting pot that produced a unique Australian horse, the Waler. The notable English breeds were Thoroughbred, Clydesdale, Suffolk Punch, Cleveland Bay, Lincolnshire Trotter, Norfolk Roadster, Yorkshire Coacher, Hackney, and Percheron, which although a French breed, had its own English studbook, including Shire, and native British ponies, Welsh pony (cob).
An important influence in the Waler was the Timor Pony. Brought to Australia early and used with great success, due to its hardiness, stamina and agility, by explorers such as George Grey, in the 1830's, the later Governor of South Australia. The Territorian gentlemen - outlaw 'Diamond' Jim Campbell broke in a hundred Timor ponies in 1908. These ponies were from wild herds on the Coburg Peninsula, where they had been established in the early the nineteenth century, and to this day remnant herds still survive. The Cape horse, another Waler ancestor, consisted largely of Basuto Pony, with influences of Java Pony, Arabian and Barb, Norfolk Roadster.
Owners of large properties bred horses by the thousands for use and sale as stock horses and as general work horses, and for sale to the lucrative remount trade. The original and introduced quality blood, the harsh “free range” environment and culling for quality protected standards of endurance, weight carrying capabilities, conformation and temperament so that out crossing was rarely necessary. No studbook was ever formed so the Waler was originally known as a type rather than a breed.
Walers proved the ideal stockhorse, but with the phasing out of the remount trade in the 1940's, ceased to be commercially bred. Many breeders destroyed their stock, however a few simply abandoned them to run wild in the bush. Mechanization had led to the decline in use of horses on the land and they were not recognised as being useful for competition or for recreational purposes. After around the 1960’s the Waler had disappeared from domestic scene, the name virtually forgotten, their remnants surviving as “Brumbies”. By the time horses regained popularity, riders wanted purebreds, such as the Thoroughbreds, Arabians, Quarter horses and so on, abandoning the old fashioned, colonial bred pioneering work horse. The Waler, once honoured and admired, became abandoned and ignored to run as feral horses only regarded as untrainable meat animals.
Walers Today
The Founders have successfully researched, located and classified many Walers whilst documenting the history that led to their preservation and recognition as a Breed today.
The versatility, speed and stamina of Walers make them very competitive in all forms of equine sport and competition including Endurance, Dressage, Eventing, Show Jumping, Showing, and Pony Club. Walers are proving once again to be exceptional Pleasure and Companion horses. When treated with the respect and consideration they deserve they are consistent, reliable, and tolerant.
With their kind temperament and loyal nature, Walers are ideal for youngsters to participate on at Pony Club and for Trail Riding.
Today some Walers are still brought in from the wild or off outback stations, but there are several Waler Studs throughout Australia, preserving the number of horses with the Waler bloodlines and attributes.
The horse that pioneered Australia with the explorers, surveyors and settlers, carried our loads, worked our stock, bravely fought and died with our soldiers, is finally achieving just recognition and appreciation. With the establishment and maintenance of a strictly governed Stud Book their future is assured.
Preserving the future of the Waler
The aim of the Association is to preserve the original attributes of the Waler. By defining the Waler horse in Association’s Standards an ideal is set for breeding programs. A Studbook has been established. The continued and considered periodic introduction of qualifying “station stock” that can be located will ensure the strengths of the original Waler will be maintained. This Association can be contacted via its website at http://walerhorses.com

© Waler Horse Owners and Breeders Association Australia Inc. 2004


WHSA (Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc) - http://walerhorse.com

What was a Waler?

Waler HorseThe name Waler was given to any Australian horse abroad. To begin with these horses came from the Hawkesbury, Monaro, Hunter Valley and other horse breeding areas of New South Wales which was Australia's first colony. By the mid 1800's, all Australian horses serving in India were known as Walers.

Later demand for Australian horses became so great that the government encouraged breeding programs all over Australia. Victoria and Queensland produced the largest quantity, whilst the drier states produced a horse more adapted to the climatic conditions of the Middle East. Station managers turned to horse breeding, as cattle prices were not to be compared with those of a good remount. Between 1861 and 1931 close to half a million Walers were exported from Australia.

Walers were bred from a range of blood, Draught and Pony breeds : most notably the Cape horses (Basuto and Barbs), staying bred Thoroughbreds. The endurance / desert type Arabs, the Cleveland Bay, the Norfolk Roadster, the Suffolk Punch, the older style of Percheron, the Clydesdale, the Shire, the Welsh Cobb, the Welsh Mountain Pony and the Timor Pony. they became famous as Army Remount, but were also popular for civilian use.

The Waler was extremely hardy and disease free. Every horse that was imported to Australia, from Thoroughbred to Timor Ponies, had to survive the incredible hardships of the long voyage by sea. they then had to adapt to the harsh arid conditions of the new continent. they evolved over time to be able to withstand even the deserts of central Australia.

During the time period in which Australia was exporting horses for the Army, many other horses were also sent overseas for civilian purposes. Families stationed abroad sought Australian bred horses for leisure, pleasure as well as harness duties etc. those horses that were rejected by the Army were quickly snapped up by the local inhabitants for work horses. All these horses were considered to be of a quality above that of the horses from other parts of the world. People abroad distinguished these horses from the others by suing the nickname Waler, in much the same way they distinguished horses from South Africa as Capers. Banjo Patterson refers to an old stock horse being auctioned as "one of the old Brigade" in his poem "The Droving Days", a horse such as this was used for stock work. Banjo Patterson bought and trained many horses for the Australian Army during World War One.

Walers exported varied in height according to demand, which changed continually. "Waler ponies" were sent to India of 13.2 hands high. Military requirements changed, the typical mounted infantry horse was 14.2 hands high, even the light artillery horses were under 15 hands high. Horses over 15 hands high, were neither desired nor prohibited.

The most famous of all the feats of the Waler horse at war, was the Light Horse charge on Beersheeba in 1917. the horses went without food or water for 48 hours in the hot Sinai desert, a day and a night of fighting and then undertook a 3 km cavalry charge across the burning plains under Turkish gunfire, to take Beersheeba and its water wells, which they so desperately needed. Walers were of different types and were classified by their purposed, cavalry, artillery, etc. Remount agents chose a well conformed horse with strong bone and tendon, a powerful broad rump, deep girth and full barrel, a big walk and smooth action. A Waler was bred to be frugal and have power, endurance and stamina.

Towards the end of the era, before the motorisation of the Army and indeed of the world, most breeders had a prized band of station mares to which they put either a blood or draught stallion, depending on the demand at the time. Some stations had their own station bred sires and these were particularly valued for their ability to endure the Australian environment. It is these horses that many believe to be the "true" Waler - it was a unique blend of breeds that could never be reproduced.

The Waler was never a breed. They were an Australian bred horse, but evidence shows that the Waler was any breed or cross breed that could be useful for export.

Many people believe that because all Walers abroad were shot or sold at the end of World War One, there are no Walers left. They do not realise that remount breeding was a very big industry, which produced nearly half a million horses right up until the end of World War Two. The breeding stock remained in australia as did the horses that were ready to embark when orders were cancelled.

The Name "Waler"

It was in 1846 that the term Waler was coined by the British. Originally all Australian horses came from New South Wales, but as the settlers spread throughout the continent, they took their horses with them. Once horse breeding became a big industry, the Western States and Queensland also became important breeding areas due to their climatic similarities to India - the name Waler still describes these horses.

Many Australians did not refer to their hoses as Walers, this was the name the "Poms" gave them. There is reason to believe that breeders from other state did not like their horses named after the state of NSW. Most old-timers recall the breeding of remounts from stock or station horses. Once the horses were no longer exported, the name went out of use. So the horse that was known as a stock horse or station horse by most australians became a remount when it was bought by an exporter and then a Waler once it arrived in India. Yet this was one and the same horse.

Stock Horses

In 1971 the ASHS was set up to create a truly Australian horse. Many wished to recreate the Waler. Many Walers became the foundation stock of the Stock Horse, but many other breeds have been registered as Stock horses - German Warmbloods, Quarter hoses, the modern (more sprint oriented, less durable) Thoroughbreds etc. The Stock horse was selected for type, selectors took any horse that conformed to their ideal, many top class horses were chosen, but, the modern imports never underwent the arduous voyage nor battled to survive the sparse vegetation. Many Stock horses are true Walers, and many more have absolutely no connection with Australia, its colonisation or history, its export trade or its incredible feats of war.

What is the Waler Today?

A Waler is an Australian bred horse, whose bloodlines originate from stock bred in Australia before the end of the Second World War.

After the Second World War, large scale horse breeding worldwide became obsolete due to motorisation. Many remount breeders shot their surplus horses. Some stations retained their herds for stock horses, maintaining their herds in the semi -wild conditions that they were originally bred under. On some stations, selective culling, additions of quality sires, gelding, branding etc. are an annual occurrence. Other stations allowed their horses to become wild and these herds still exist in the areas where they were at one time bred. These horses are the direct descendants of those that became famous as Walers.

They have bred within a close genetic pool, since the cessation of remount breeding and are well on their way to becoming an established breed. In 1986 the Waler Horse Society of Australian Inc. was formed. A breed standard and Stud Book was established to govern and record the breeding of these horses. From this time the Waler has been an official breed.

A Waler today must be bred from Australian stock, that has had no recent imports introduced since the end of the 1940s. Until this time, horses were bred under harsh conditions and selected for their hardiness. Only the best horses were originally imported due to the high cost of transport and their need to survive the voyage. Today a country is less likely to export their premium stock and as horses are now used for sport and recreation, the severity of selection for hardiness has diminished.

A Waler must be a serviceable horse, it is not selected for beauty, it was always a functional horse. It must have good conformation and a sensible temperament. It is now classified in four main types:

Some people are opposed to establishing the descendants of these horses as a bred, and in particular of calling them Walers. However, the term "breed" denotes any group with similar heritable qualities. As all the Walers, past and present descended from horses brought here to colonise Australia, and have all evolved and adapted within the genetic pool to survive in the most arid regions of this continent, the Waler has more right to the title than many other "breeds". Some people with a vested interest in other breeds feel threatened by the prospect of the Waler returning to its former popularity, and jeopardising the success of their particular breed. This attitude is unproductive, as without the diversity of breeds of the world, a great many more recent breeds such as Warmbloods, American breeds, or indeed the Waler would never have evolved.

The Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc.

The Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc. was established in 1986 with the aim to preserve, restore and establish as a breed the last direct descendants of the horse that became so famous as the Waler. Since the formation of the Society, many individuals have collated a vast store of information, from government documents, station records, export documents, Life-long breeders, Agents, Trainers, Historians, Army Personnel - and so the list goes on. At present, the Society is documenting the accumulation of letters, interviews and records into a computer file for ready reference on any subject that is associated with Walers. Much of the evidence is conflicting; there were and are varying opinions on the Waler's identity, but through it all there are several facts that remain indisputable and can be backed by information from the numerous sources. As a consequence, the Waler Horse Society of Australian Inc. recognises extremes from pony to 17hh that have defined acceptable breed influences etc. Part-breds are also recognised in a separate register.

It is very difficult to obtain a Waler. Only approximately two hundred have been classified since the Society began in 1986. By becoming a member, writing letters to politicians, donating time and money and being generally supportive, people can aid the society in its enormous task of researching, locating and obtaining genuine Waler stock. Time is very limited, most "pure" Walers left on stations are themselves threatened by the introduction of modern bloodlines. Wild Walers are targeted by Government proposals to eradicate all wild horses by 2003. Already thousands of quality horses - well conformed animals - have been processed at the export meat works around Australia. Farmers are being educated by Government strategists on the feral pest impact and the potential market value the wild horse has as an export for pet meat, or human consumption. There are not many willing to consider the preservation of some of the premium stock for the purpose of establishing a truly Australian horse as a performance breed of the future. The Waler needs all the the support and involvement people can afford to give.

The WHSA Inc. acts as an umbrella organisation working for the protection and establishment of Australia's unique horses as individual breeds. The main concern of the Society is the Waler horse, but it also hopes to help the Coffin Bay pony, the Stradbroke Island pony, the Finness pony, the Timor pony, the Brumby and the Snowy River Brumby.

Information and photo kindly supplied by the Waler Horse Society of Australia Inc. Contact the Secretary via mail@walerhorse.com

Last updated 20 November, 2006

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| Produced by - Cheryl Hardy Flowerdale, Victoria - Maintained by Ian Mullins, Elphinstone, Victoria|