British Stallions sent to Australia

Antipodes: British Stallions sent to Australia

By Keith R. Binney for Thoroughbred Heritage. ©Keith R. Binney, 2009. Keith Binney is author of Horsemen of the First Frontier (1788-1900) & The Serpents Legacy (Volcanic Productions, 2005) and a contributor to Thoroughbred Heritage.

Featured Image:

‘Skeleton’ was one of the very early importations into NSW (1827) and ‘Dover’ (1836)

The Influence of British Stallions in Australia

In the period 1788 – 1882, almost 400 stallions were imported to the colony of New South Wales, forerunner of the nation of Australia. Yet despite the commercial and practical advantages available to Cape of Good Hope and Indian exporters, arising from their much shorter shipping distances — plus a general recognition by early Australian horse breeders of the worth of Arab bloodlines — more than 90% of these imports were English or Irish-bred thoroughbreds.

Colonial Sons of British Sires

From the earliest times, Australian breeders interested in “breeding up” from their mares of eastern origin, preferred to use the few English thoroughbred sires available, as even Colonial-bred stallions from English sires were naturally of mixed blood. Reputedly, the Honourable Thomas Icely’s Chancellor (c1826, by Steeltrap (GB) 1815, out of Manto (GB) 1817) was the first colonial-born, pure thoroughbred stallion, but as he died at just six years of age, Chancellor did little as a sire. However, beginning in the early 1840s, pure-bred colonial sires, such as the famous Sir Hercules (1843, by Cap-a-pie (GB), out of Paraguay (GB) by Sir Hercules (GB)), stamped their mark on the Australasian racehorse. Sir Hercules’ acceptance continued through his sons, particularly Cossack (1846, out of Flora McIvor) and Yattendon (1861, out of Cassandra). However, perhaps his most famous racehorse son, The Barb (1863, by Sir Hercules (AUS) and out of Fair Ellen), was somewhat disappointing as a sire.

Other Colonial pure-bred sires of the early period, such as Waverley (1845, by St. George (GB), out of Splendora (GB)), Lawson’s Tros (c1844, by Tros (GB), out of Persiani (GB)), and Whalebone (1844, by Speculation (GB), out of Paraguay (GB)), were also successful and reasonably well patronised. They were followed by Touchstone (1853, by Touchit (GB), out of Thetis), Chevalier (1854, by Lawson’s Tros, out of Flora McIvor), and William Tell (c1855, by William Tell (GB), out of Maid of the Oaks), a full brother to dual Melbourne Cup winner Archer (1856).

By 1882, there were a large number of well-bred, Colonial-born, thoroughbred sires available. Some of these thoroughbred horses were put to use over station mares to upgrade the “Australian Stock Horse,” which was to become famous as the “Waler” in military circles during the Indian and Boer Wars, as well as the 1st World War in the Middle East. Major Australian thoroughbred breeders of the time showed a strong bias against using locally-bred stallions, in favour of imported English sires. This preference — or perhaps prejudice — extended well past the interruptions to English imports due to the two World Wars.

Today this bias no longer exists, as confirmed by the fact that Australia’s current leading sires are both Australian-breds, albeit with large doses of international blood: Redoute’s Choice (AUS, 1996) by Danehill (USA) (a son of Danzig (USA)), out of Shantha’s Choice (AUS), and Encosta de Lago (AUS, 1993) by Fairy King (USA) (a son of Northern Dancer (CAN)), out of Shoal Creek (AUS). Both Danehill and Fairy King were purchased as yearlings in the USA, and were raced and retired to stud in England and Ireland.

With the modern “shuttle stallion” system, Danehill and Fairy King and other superior stallions were and currently other superior stallions are flown by airplane to the southern hemisphere, after covering mares on northern hemisphere time. Travel time for shuttle stallions is 24 to 48 hours, depending on lay-overs, origin and destination — a blink of the eye compared to the journeys faced by their predecessors.

Some Imported British Stallions


Some Important Early Imported Stallions
From Great Britain, Unless Otherwise Noted
Imported Horse Sire (Sire of Sire) Importer
1823 NSW Steeltrap (1815) Scud (Beningbrough) Mr. Aspinall
c1825 NSW Bay Camerton (1817) Camerton (Hambletonian) Robt. Lethbridge
1825 NSW Herald (1819) Marmion (Whiskey) Aust. Ag. Co.
1826 TAS Peter Fin (1819) Whalebone (Waxy) Capt. Lamb
1827 NSW Skeleton (1820) (IRE) Master Robert (Buffer) Alex. Riley
1828 NSW Rous’ Emigrant (1822) Pioneer (Whiskey) Capt. Henry Rous
1828 NSW Theorem (1824) Merlin (Castrel) Henry Rous
1829 NSW Toss (1822) Bourbon (Sorcerer) Mesrs. Scott
1830 NSW Trumpet (1827) Tiresias (Soothsayer) W.A. Scott
1830 NSW Whisker (1828) Whisker (Waxy) Henry Bayley
1832 TAS Little John (1831) Little John (Octavius) Mr. Henty
1835 NSW Gratis (1829) Middleton (Phantom) Capt. Daniels
1835 NSW Velocipede (183-) Velocipede (Blacklock) Capt. Daniels
1836 NSW Dover (1832) Patron (Partisan) Scott Bros.
1836 NSW Gil Blas (1834) Muley (Orville) Chas. Roberts
1836 NSW St. John (1834) St. Nicholas (Emilius) J. Wood
1837 NSW Operator (1832) Emilius (Orville) Hon. T. Icely
1838 NSW Lawson’s Emigrant (1831) Tramp (Dick Andrews) Wm. Lawson
1839 NSW Bassano (1837) Filho-da-Puta (Haphazard) Robt. Dawson
1839 NSW Cap-a-pie (1837) The Colonel (Whisker) Henry Kater
1839 NSW Muleyson (1833) Muley (Orville) Robt. Dawson
1839 NSW Tros (1822) Priam (Emilius) W.A. Scott
1842 NSW Boyd’s Camel (1838) Camel (Whalebone) Benjamin Boyd
1842 NSW The Doctor (1840) Physician (Brutandorf) Chas. Smith
1842 TAS Jersey (1839) Buzzard (Blacklock) Mr. Rose
1843 NZ Aether (1836) St. Patrick (Walton) Hon. Mr. Petre
1847 NSW William Tell (1843) Touchstone (Camel) Cooper & Holt
1849 VIC The Premier (1843) Tory Boy (Tomboy) McKnight & Irvine
1854 NSW Warhawk (1848) Epirus (Langar) H.N. Simpson
1855 SA Muscovado (1851) Sweetmeat (Gladiator) Messrs. Fisher
1855 SA South Australian (1850) Cotherstone (Touchstone) Messrs. Fisher
1856 NSW Cheddar (1850) Cotherstone (Touchstone) Messrs. Busby
1856 NSW Magus (1853) Pyrrhus the First (Epirus) Cheeke & Tait
1856 NSW New Warrior (1851) Pyrrhus the First (Epirus) Tait & Jenner
1857 VIC Indian Warrior (1849) Napier (Gladiator) R.F. Greene
1857 TAS Peter Wilkins (1853) The Flying Dutchman (Bay Middleton) James Purves
1857 NSW Pitsford (1847)
[2,000 Guineas/ 2nd Derby]
Epirus (Langar) Mylne & Tindal
1858 VIC Boiardo (1851) Orlando (Touchstone) James Purves
1859 VIC Kelpie (1855) Weatherbit (Sheet Anchor) Simpson & Row
1859 NSW Freetrader (1849) The Sea (Whalebone) Gord. Sandeman
1859 NZ The Peer (1855) Melbourne (Humphrey Clinker) E. Moorhouse
1860 SA Fisherman (1853)
[Ascot Gold Cup twice]
Heron (Bustard) Hurtle Fisher
1860 NSW Lord of the Hills (1854) Touchstone (Camel) Richard Dines
1860 VIC The Hermit (1851)
[2,000 Guineas]
Bay Middleton (Sultan) James Purves
1861 NSW Kingston (1860) Kingston (Venison) John Lee
1862 NSW Yelverton (1861) Gemma-di-Vergy (Sir Hercules) Chas. Baldwin
1867 VIC Snowden (1853) Pyrrhus the First (Epirus) T. Henty
1869 NSW Grandmaster (1868) Gladiateur (Monarque) Dangar & White
1871 VIC The Marquis (1859)
[2,000 Guineas/ St. Leger/ 2nd Derby]
Stockwell (The Baron) Mssrs. Dakin
1874 NSW Hawthornden (1867)
[St. Leger]
Lord Clifden (Newminster) Mssrs. Dangar
1874 NSW Warlike (1865) Weatherbit (Sheet Anchor) G.C. Tindal
1874 NSW The Drummer (1866) Rataplan (The Baron) Chas. Baldwin
1876 SA Gang Forward (1870)
[2,000 Guineas]
Stockwell (The Baron) Sir Thomas Elder
1878 VIC Musket (1867) Toxophilite (Longbow) Auckland Stud Co.
Letters behind import date indicate which country or state horse was imported into, although in some cases the horse later moved to another location.
NZ = New Zealand
NSW = New South Wales (Australia)
TAS = Tasmania (Australia)
SA = South Australia (Australia)
VIC = Victoria (Australia)