Although Australia is a fairly recent culture when it comes to breeding horses, there is still some variety that you will find coming out of the Land Down Under. The unique landscapes and characteristics of this continental nation has also led to Australian horse breeds that are unique and distinct in looks, temperament, and willingness.
Here are the 7 breeds that are known to originate in Australia.
#1. Australian Draught Horse
The Australian Draught Horse came about as a breed thanks to the crossbreeding efforts of 4 pure draught horse breeds that were brought to Australia. Clydesdales, Percherons, Shires, and Suffolk Punch are all incorporated into this breed, as are some light horse bloodlines that were added to help improve the genetics.
All coat colors are accepted within this breed, though an excessive amount of white on the body or face is not necessarily desired. White below the knee is considered to be acceptable.
The stud book society for this breed was not established until 1979. It was finally created to help separate the Australian Draught Horse from the other purebred horse breeds that were present in Australia. Although the need for heavy farm work has all but disappeared, you can still find this breed valued as a working horse, especially on smaller farms, throughout the country. It is also regularly entered into draught competitions and makes for a good riding horse.
#2. Australian Pony
Influenced by Arabian bloodlines and the Welsh Pony, this breed stands between 11-14 hands in height. The head is full of show quality, with emphasis on the alert ears and oversized dark eyes. The neck of this breed is short, but rounded nicely, and shoulders slope back in a way that is reminiscent of the foundational British pony breeds.
The Australian Pony first emerged as a distinct breed around 1920, with the first stud book forming in 1931 to support this horse. The Australian Pony Stud Book also caters to European breeds, Connemara ponies, and other horses in addition to its namesake breed.
Most horses in this breed today are used as a mount for children or smaller adults. They are highly intelligent and extremely motivated to learn new skills thanks to their curiosity. You’ll often find them in dressage, show jumping, and combined driving events. They also excel in certain mounted games.
Stallions of influence for the Australian Pony include Exmoor ponies, a Hungarian, a Welsh Cob with English Hackney bloodlines, and a Welsh Mountain Pony.
#3. Australian Riding Pony
The Australian Riding Pony is a fairly recent breed to the equine world, having been developed since just the 1970s. It has been greatly influenced by the British Riding Pony in its development, but there are also Arabian and Thoroughbred bloodlines incorporated into the breed.
These ponies tend to look very similar to a racing Thoroughbred, which makes them quite popular. They can vary in height, but do not exceed 14 hands. Solid colors are featured, with small heads and ears, but with a free-flowing gait that most other pony breeds do not have.
The Australian Riding Pony Stud Book was established around 1980, created after just 7 years of breeding work from the first imported ponies for this breed. Like other pony breeds, its primary use is as a riding horse for children and young adults. It is also an excellent competitive horse, especially for show jumping and dressage.
To help promote diversity within the breed, the foundation section initially required four crosses of animals from approved breeds before a pony could be entered into the appropriate section. Now that the breed is firmly established, some of the requirements have lessened, including moving from a requirement of four to a requirement of three.
Artificial insemination is also allowed in this breed, which has helped to create an extensive number of bloodlines in a short amount of time.
#4. Australian Stock Horse
This is a hardy breed of horse that is known for having a calm, willing temperament. The Australian Stockhorse also has a superior level of endurance and agility when compared to the other Australian horse breeds. Like most horse breeds from here, the roots of the breed are dated to the initial arrival of the First Fleet in Botany Bay in 1788.
This means the Australian Stock Horse features Thoroughbred, Arabian, Barb, and Spanish horse genetics. There are many similarities to the Waler horse with this breed, though it tends to be smaller. It received a formal recognition as a distinct breed in 1971 and has continued to grow in popularity since then.
Unlike some other breeds, however, the Society which governs the Australian Stock Horse does allow for breeders to utilize other bloodlines and breeds to influence development. Quarter Horse bloodlines are particularly popular with some breeders. In order for the horses to be included, however, the breeder must pay a large fee for the privilege.
Australian Stock Horses are quite intelligent, tough, and courageous. They are quick and agile, with a sure-footed walk. Most are calm and responsive with their temperament. All coat colors are accepted, with height ranges between 14-16.2 hands, with some variation above or below that average.
More than 170,000 horses or foals are currently registered.
This breed of horse is free-roaming throughout all of Australia, often forming herds that are referred to as “mobs.” Most people who are familiar with Australian horse breeds will know of the Brumbies that are near the Australian Alps. These horses are the descendants of escaped or lost horses that sometimes go all the way back to the initial European settlement.
The genetics of the Brumby can be quite varied. Some of their ancestors include British pony and draught breeds. Timor ponies, Thoroughbreds, and Arabians are also believed to be part of this breed. Some are also believed to carry the rare Pangare gene.
Because of the long journey that was required to bring the horses to Australia in the first place, the Brumby is made up of incredibly strong genetics. Only the strongest horses could survive the trip. This has led to their unique ability to flourish throughout every environment on the continent.
How Brumbies are viewed is up for debate. Some see them as part of the national history and heritage of Australia. Others seem them as a major pest. Current estimates place the Brumby population at 400,000 horses, with population increases of up to 20% per year.
#6. Coffin Bay Pony
This breed was established in Australia due to the importation of 60 Timor ponies from English settlers that came from Indonesia to Coffin Bay. Often confused with the Brumby because the breed is somewhat feral by nature, Coffin Bay ponies live in protected areas that are fenced off from the general population.
As a breed, they are notable from their strong hooves and skeletal structure. Although more than a century has passed, the resemblance to the Timor pony is still evident in this breed, especially in the shorter legs and muscular hindquarters. When domesticated, this breed is friendly and extremely manageable, even for children. The feral horses of this breed are still intelligent, friendly, and quite approachable.
Although this breed can vary in height, they do not rise above 14.2 hands. Their coat must be a solid color for the horse to be considered part of the breed. Any broken colors indicate the presence of additional bloodlines, though white markings on the face or legs are considered to be accepted.
#7. Waler Horse
This horse breed was developed from the first horses that were brought along to Australia during the colonization period of the 19th century. Originally called “New South Walers,” this breed is a combination of several different horse breeds. Genetics include Arabian, Cape Horses, Timor Ponies, and Thoroughbreds. Although not confirmed, it is believed that Walers also have some heavy draft horse genetics, with Clydesdales or Percherons suspected.
When it was originally developed, Walers were considered to be more of a “type” instead of a distinct breed. As the harsh conditions of colonization took place, the horses developed a certain hardiness and better endurance than other horse breeds, even when there was little food or water available to them.
The modern Waler horse is bred from bloodlines that came to Australia before 1945, free of imported genetics.
Although many of the Australian horse breeds are fairly recent in their establishment, they are quickly growing in size and popularity. Although some of the horses are deemed to be pests and they can be very destructive in the wild, they can also be very adaptable to changing circumstances and be a flexible mount that is ready, willing, and able to learn new skills.
As time passes by, each of these breeds will continue to firm up a specific conformation that will help to solidify the breed from its initial foundation.