History of the Australian Stud Book: Parts I and II

History of the Australian Stud Book: Parts I and II 

By Michael Ford, Keeper of the Australian Stud Book June 2006 ©Australian Stud Book, 2006


Featured Image: Keepers of the Australian Stud Book (The Australian Bloodhorse; Douglas M Barrie)

Acknowledgment: I gratefully acknowledge the superb summary produced by Michael Ford as contained in the website above. I have taken the liberty of reproducing much of this here purely for easier reading by those who may be compromised?

This information remains the property of the Joint Proprietors of the Australian Stud Book, being the Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club. It must not be used for any purpose without their written permission. (Racing NSW/Australia has now taken over ownership).

The Australian Stud Book has a pedigree as long as some of the horses contained in it. For the first seventy years it was mostly ‘kept’ by one family and over the last fifty five years it has only had four ‘keepers’. It ranks second to the American Stud Book with its 30,000 broodmares, 18,000 foals and nearly 20,000 breeders but could rank first for services to breeders. The early history of the Australian Stud Book is the history of the men who established and nurtured it, and they lived interesting lives. From the early principle of “express purpose of preserving an official record of the breeding industry in Australia and of assisting to improve the standard of the blood horse in the country” to “ensuring the integrity of thoroughbred breeding in Australia,” there has been much change to the way the Australian Stud Book operates.

Early colonial stud books

From the earliest time, breeding was a most important factor in the development of a satisfactory standard of racing in Australia. Initially, details of matings and bloodlines were recorded in a haphazard way. Although the first race meeting in Australia is generally regarded as being held in October 1810 at Hyde Park, Sydney, twenty two years after the first settlement, it was not until 1842 that any attempt was made to establish a Stud Book. The newly formed Australian Jockey Club deemed it desirable that a Stud Book for the colony be established and requested horse identification details from breeders but nothing came of the AJC’s project.

As the nation grew and each state emerged, the settlement of rural land intensified and the local race club became an integral part of community life. Land was set aside for the racecourse and soon racecourses were located right throughout the country. At one stage there were over 500 race clubs operating. The Principal Racing Clubs grew from the need for leadership and consistent rules and the major clubs in the capital cities tended to take this role. Gradually the Principal Racing Clubs became the arbitrator in solving troubling racing questions and formulated local rules within each state which were expected to be followed by all clubs. This led to the Australian Rules of Racing and the Local Rules of each club.

The Principal Racing Clubs were the genesis of the current Australian Racing Board which administers the Australian Rules of Racing and estimates are that breeding and racing today is a $7 billion industry, employing some 240,000 people, holding over 22,000 races annually, with 454 raceclubs and a gross annual attendance of 1.7million, which is the second highest of any sport in Australia apart from Australian Football. Three of the colonies, Tasmania, New South Wales and Victoria, commenced stud books which could not be sustained.

Tasmanian Stud Book

Despite a Mr Chisholm’s early call in 1812 in the Sydney Gazette to those “desirous of improving their breed of horses”, the first published stud book in Australia was the Tasmanian Stud Book, compiled in 1836 by Henry Rawlings, Clerk of the Course to the Tasmanian Turf Club. In 1847, the Tasmanian Race Club appointed one of its officers, WT MacMichael, as Keeper of the Stud Book, but no further stud books appeared in print. It was obvious there was a need for a stud book, but compiling was harder than it looked, even in a small state like Tasmania.

NSW Stud Book

Seventeen years after the AJC’s call for a Stud Book, Fowler Boyd Price succeeded in publishing Volume 1 of the Stud Book of New South Wales in 1859, offered not as a universal stud book, nor perfectly free of error, but confident it contained the most concise and approved collection of authentic pedigree information. Price decided that, due to the paucity of records of imported horses and breeders’ own records, the only broodmares he would allow in the book were those which were wholly thoroughbred. This meant many mares, bordering on being wholly thoroughbred, were omitted.

Harry P Mostyn compiled and edited a second volume in 1868 which was published by Bell’s Sporting Life, and in which he begged forgiveness for the delay and the number of errors caused by studmasters holding back information. The Agricultural Society of New South Wales published a third in 1873, compiled by Edward King Cox and John Agar Scarr. Both volumes suffered from the same fate as other colonial stud books: lack of co-operation and hostility. Cox, a principal of Fernhill Stud, and Scarr an AJC handicapper, took “nothing on trust where it could be verified by search.”

The AJC, in 1860, established 1st August as the official birthdate of all horses born in Australia, to correct the climactic, breeding and pastoral imbalances caused by the Northern Hemisphere’s 1st January birthday.

Victorian Stud Book

Around 1859, William Levey edited Volume 1 of the Victorian Stud Book, published by Bell’s Sporting Life, which ran for four volumes, the last in 1875 compiled by William Yuille junior, sporting editor of the Melbourne Weekly Times, also apologising for the delay in publication. He thanked WE Dakin for his wonderful knowledge of pedigrees of English horses. Could this be the trainer of Darriwell, winner of the 1879 Melbourne Cup, and brother of Frank F Dakin, VRC Handicapper who later helped with the Australian Stud Book?

This Stud Book also was restricted to thoroughbreds only. Yuille was assisted with the compilation by a number of interested subscribers, including men whose names live on through races in recognition of their services to racing, being RC Bagot (VRC Secretary), TS Clibborn (AJC Secretary) and CB Fisher, who had a Plate named after him, which is now the VRC Queen Elizabeth Stakes.

Origin of the Keeper title

Where did the word ‘Keeper’ come from? It is thought that it had its origins when racing in England, over three hundred years ago, was mainly a match race between two horses. Often at major meetings, there were as many as 24 match races of two horses with stakes ranging from £200 to £2,000, an enormous amount of money. It was therefore imperative that meticulous records be kept. The results were kept by the Keeper of the Match Book, James Weatherby, having this role in 1770. He was also Secretary to The Jockey Club. As interest in the breeding of these horses grew so did the role of the Keeper, to become Keeper of the Stud Book.

The first Keeper was James’ nephew, James Weatherby who published Volume 1 of the General Stud Book in 1791. The Weatherby family still own and manage the General Stud Book and provide a secretariat service to British racing, handling nominations, acceptances, results as well as breeding records.

Until 1947, the Keeper of the Stud Book in Australia was also the Registrar of Racehorses, before the naming function was divided up to the states and compiled under the Registrar of Racehorses, centralised at the Australian Jockey Club. Racing Information Services Australia, owned by the state racing authorities, now carries out this function thereby providing the Stud Book with independent integrity without conflict or compromise.

Compilers and Keepers of the Stud Book


Compiler Notes Years Volumes
William C. Yuille founder 1878 1
Archibald Yuille son of founder 1882 2 to 9
Keeper Notes Years Volumes
A.P. Wilson 1909 10
Leslie G. Rouse Died in office 1914 11 to14
Gordon McKellar Died in office 1927 15
A. Loddon Yuille Grandson of founder 1927 16 to 21
Walter J. McFadden Retired 1949 22 to 35
Roderick Page Resigned 1985 36
John Digby Retired 1988 37 to 40
Michael Ford Current 2004 41


William Cross Yuille

William Cross Yuille was born in Glasgow in 1819 and emigrated to Hobart in 1836 with his cousin Archibald Buchanan Yuille. They bought 2,000 merino sheep and shipped them to Geelong in 1837 but trouble with the aborigines around the Barwon River forced them to move on to Ballarat in 1838 along with Henry Anderson, one of the first white settlers to do so. It appears Yuille had a falling out with Anderson and set up a separate camp on the corner of now Pleasant Street and Wendouree Parade which today is marked by an obelisk outside the State school. Known as Black Swamp or Yuille’s Swamp then, it is now the beautiful Lake Wendouree. The name Wendouree comes from the aboriginal word ‘wendaaree’ which means ‘go away’. A story is told that when William Yuille asked an aboriginal woman the name of the swamp, that was her reply. He established his sheep station ‘Ballaarat’ around present day Ballarat and Sebastopol.

The following year Yuille travelled to New Zealand, became caught up in incidents around the Treaty of Waitangi with Maoris, returned to Melbourne and sailed for England in 1840. After his return in 1842, William established a mercantile firm with James Oliphant Denny which took up the Right Run station at the Rockbank run and where William lived until he returned to England in 1853 having sold all his stations to his cousin Archibald. William married Denny’s daughter Mary and six of their eleven children were born at Rockbank. He took them all back to Scotland in 1853 where they lived for five years, later returning to Australia to reside in Williamstown, Victoria.

Yuille became one of the principal pastoralists of Victoria, a turf expert and a respected bloodstock agent. One of his first experiences in racing was in 1839 when he matched his horse Nobby against a mare from Tasmania, owned by William Wood for £25 stakes and breakfast for a dozen people. Not only did Nobby win, but he kept running along the banks of the Yarra after he passed the winning-post. Yuille became interested in breeding thoroughbreds from around 1842 and was a member of the Port Philip Turf Club which conducted racing in the area known as Melbourne Racecourse, subsequently to become Flemington. Historian Andrew Lemon, credits Yuille, along with James Purves, as doing the most to introduce new racehorses to Victoria in the early years.

Yuille, on one of his return trips to England, imported the stallion Warhawk and the broodmare Gaslight. Apparently, when his top racehorse Flying Buck won the Australasian Championship Stakes over three miles in 1860, Yuille walked away with over £7,000 in winning bets. It won by seven lengths, leading all the way with a very light weight. The following year Flying Buck won the Victorian St Leger. The Championship win was the first time that racing made sporting headlines, appearing in Bell’s Life In Sydney. However, at the next start Flying Buck was beaten and the jockey asserted that Yuille instructed him not to win, only to retract the statement explaining that bookmakers had forced him to say it. Yuille took the jockey back into his stable, which added to everyone’s suspicions, but the case was never satisfactorily resolved and damaged the goodwill Yuille had earned to date.

Yuille used the proceeds of the earlier winnings to purchase Melbourne’s best-known sporting bookshop, Kirk’s Bazaar at 47 West Bourke Street. He owned Toryboy, which was unplaced in Archer’s Melbourne Cup wins of 1861 and 1862, but unfortunately for him he sold it before it won the 1865 Cup.

William closed his racing establishment in 1866 to take up the position of principal sporting writer for the Australasian newspaper, writing under the nom-des plumes of ‘Peeping Tom’ and ‘Playboy.’ He was a Victoria Racing Club steward and handicapper and a member of Tattersalls’ Committee until 1881. He established the bloodstock firm William Yuille & Company in 1873 with his sons Archie and Albert. One of the firm’s most notable transactions was the disposal of Maribrynong Stud in 1878 for £84,000. Eventually, William undertook to produce an Australian Stud Book. The firm, situated in Melbourne’s Bourke Street West, later became Wright Stephenson’s, then Wrightson Bloodstock and is known today as New Zealand Bloodstock. It was at these offices that he edited Volumes 3 and 4 of the Victorian Stud Book, published Volume 1 of the Australian Stud Book and assisted his son Archie with its next four volumes.

William Cross Yuille died in 1894 aged 75, his wife Mary dying five years earlier, William’s contribution to Australian racing and breeding being a lasting legacy.

Archibald Yuille

William Yuille had barely begun work on the project when he lost his son William junior who accidentally drowned. Young William had edited the last two volumes of the Victorian Stud Book. One of the elder William’s other six sons, and a member of his firm, Archibald (Archie) Yuille, a VRC committeeman and treasurer, helped his father to publish Volume 1 of the Australian Stud Book, containing over 2,000 mares which had been at stud in the last 60 years, in 1878. Archie was also a recognised auctioneer of note with considerable expertise. He referred to himself as ‘The Compiler’ and when the AJC and VRC took over the ownership in 1910 they adopted the English title of Keeper of the Stud Book for its appointees.

Archie was eventually honoured with life membership of the Victoria Racing Club and was responsible for compiling and publishing the next eight volumes of the Australian Stud Book up to 1909 with the assistance of Frank Dakin, a VRC handicapper, from 1880 until his death in 1901 during the compilation of Volume 8, in which Archie pays tribute. Dakin, a native of Somersetshire, with previous military experience, arrived in Melbourne in 1871. The format decided by Archie, based on the General Stud Book of England, has changed little in over 125 years. His policy was to keep the breed as pure as possible and gradually eliminate the doubtful elements at Australian studs.

While most horses traced to mares in the General Stud Book of England, certain Australian bred mares of unknown pedigree were accepted as colonial taproot mares due to the excellence of their progeny. These included Sappho, Yatterina, Adeline, Betty, Black Swan and the Steeltrap Mare. Even today, Yatterina’s descendants have produced 134 winners of 316 major races including Commissionaire, March Legend and Regal Rhythm, while Sappho has 130 winners of 223 major races. In addition, some English mares with incomplete pedigrees such as Cutty Sark, the ancestress of Dalray plus another 101 major racewinners, were accepted.

Of those excluded altogether, their current owners were paying the penalty of their breeders’ carelessness and neglect in keeping satisfactory records. The Yuilles consistently called for a regulated naming system as many horses around Australia carried the same name and many others had their names changed regularly, which Archie Yuille referred to as “the interminable repetition of names.” Archie had also complained in Volume 9 about breeders “unblushingly submitting impossible pedigrees, and indignant letters received when they have been refused .”
The scope of Volume 1 was to not only include the broodmares of the colonies which were not yet united but also those of New Zealand in a time when communication facilities were unsophisticated. It is not a well-known fact that the Australian Stud Book included the New Zealand Stud Book in Volumes 1 to 6, until 1900, integrated with Australian mares. Carbine (NZ) 1985, for instance, is first recorded in ASB volume 4, page 246, under his dam Mersey.

A. Loddon Yuille

Nearly twenty years later, another family member, Albert Loddon Yuille, a son of Archie, in 1927 renewed the family’s long association with racing and breeding in Australia, publishing, as Keeper, Volumes 16 to 21 of the Australian Stud Book until he retired in December 1949 due to ill-health. Known as A. Loddon Yuille, he was appointed Keeper of the Australian Stud Book and Registrar of Racehorses from 180 applicants. He died in July, 1950.

In 1948 Loddon had views of the benefits of an international stud book committee, whereby officials from the major thoroughbred producing countries could work out an agreement suitable to all, to enable the acceptance of horses. It was not until 1976 that the International Stud Book Committee convened and it has functioned ever since.

Loddon was a prominent racehorse owner, his best being Redditch, winner of the 1933 VRC Grand National Steeplechase, and the 1933 and 1934 Australian Steeplechase, carrying the family colours pink with a black cap. Redditch was a crowd favourite and to everyone’s horror crashed to his death during a steeplechase. Loddon had also been connected with the bloodstock sales firm of William Yuille Company for a number of years.

Prior to Loddon, there were three Keepers ‚ AP Wilson (Volume 10), Leslie G Rouse (Volume 11 to 14), and Gordon McKellar (Volume 15). Rouse, an AJC committeeman was renowned for his vast knowledge of pedigrees and remarkable accuracy, and came from a family with long associations with the turf of New South Wales. He introduced, in Volume 11, extended pedigrees of all new broodmares tracing to their approved taproot or colonial mare to assist breeders.

During the 1920s, Rouse introduced a time limit in which to lodge mare returns. Initially, it was to be by 31 July, but this was brought forward to 31 March. Later, the date crept forward another month to 28 February, right up until 1986 when it changed to within 15 days of foaling. As breeders complained this was too burdensome, it was soon extended to 30 days, the current reporting time.

Keepers since 1949

Jim McFadden followed Loddon in 1949 and was Keeper of the Stud Book until he retired in 1985. He arrived at the AJC in 1947 as Deputy Keeper, fresh out of Sydney University with a degree in veterinary science. Born in Brisbane, raised in Sydney and educated at North Sydney High School, Jim’s father owned one horse. Jim still enjoys doing his form and attending carnival days at Royal Randwick Racecourse with his wife, Laurie. Jim was also the AJC’s official raceday veterinarian so he was very closely connected to the outcome of the many horses recorded in the stud book.

Roderick Page took over for three years producing Volume 36 until John Digby became seventh keeper in 1988, producing Volumes 37 to 40.

John Digby brought modern management practices to the organisation combining this with regular communication with industry stakeholders such as the professional breeders and veterinary associations, commercial breeding associations, race club officials, stewards, and any professional whose advice would be useful. This enabled Digby to bring about significant change to the age-old identification system for thoroughbreds, the benefits of which will be felt more than twenty years down the track.

Michael Ford became eighth Keeper of the Stud Book in 2004 after a twenty-year apprenticeship as Deputy Keeper and has focused on upgrading and extending the online returns system as well as the production of identification cards for unnamed racehorses, and breeders’ registered brands.

The achievements of these Keepers will be looked at later.

History of the Australian Stud Book: Part II

By Michael Ford, Keeper of the Australian Stud Book June 2006 ©Australian Stud Book, 2006


This information remains the property of the Joint Proprietors of the Australian Stud Book, being the Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club. It must not be used for any purpose without their written permission.

The joint proprietors: the AJC and the VRC

The Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club had unofficially subsidised the Stud Book from 1885 but it was not until 1904 that their work received recognition from the other Principal Racing Clubs in Australia. In 1910 the AJC and the VRC purchased the copyright of the Australian Stud Book from WC Yuille & Company “for the express purpose of preserving an official record of the breeding industry in Australia and of assisting to improve the standard of the blood horse in the country.” The Australian Stud Book was located at 6 Bligh Street, Sydney from 1910 with the AJC, until it moved to Randwick Racecourse around 1961.

Once an organised central body overseeing breeding records had been established, many horses of doubtful origin were excluded. This was aggravated by the fact that many breeders did not bother to keep breeding records nor submit regular Stud Book returns. The first Keeper appointed by the AJC and VRC, AP Wilson, stated in Volume 10 that many of the yearlings sold at annual sales under the title of thoroughbred did not come within that designation by any stretch of the imagination.

In 1912, the Stud Book Committee, comprising the AJC and the VRC, decided it would accept for inclusion only those new broodmares whose pedigrees could be traced to an accepted taproot and whose sire’s pedigree the Committee approved. Because breeders were taking advantage of lenient conditions, the Committee introduced a time limit in which to return broodmares. In due course, various measures were introduced including foaling slips, service certificates and identification of horses at public sales. These measures proved to be of immense value, bringing to light many cases of mistaken identity.

The most notable was the mix-up of the foals of Golestan Nymph and Phoenix Girl which had its origins in Western Australia where the mares were mistakenly identified before travelling to New South Wales. One of the foals, Reisling, won the 1965 Golden Slipper so the ramifications would have been disastrous had it not been resolved. The line might have bred on until today without anyone knowing it was wrong.

In 1921 the Blood Horse Breeders Association of Australia requested that the principal auction houses restrict their catalogues only to Stud Book stock. The growing importance of the Australian Stud Book was emphasised in 1932, when the New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland Principal Clubs agreed to restrict their classic races to horses that were entered, or eligible for inclusion in the Australian Stud Book. The South Australian Jockey Club in 1941 and the Western Australian Turf Club in 1942 also adopted this course of action. The ban was not lifted until 1996 when bloodtyping was able to resolve any identification queries, thereby enabling Non Stud Book horses to compete in the classics as long as their parentage had been successfully established.

The proprietors of the Australian Stud Book have achieved their original aims and the Stud Book now plays a vital role in the breeding and racing industry. While breeders can select matings on the bases of confirmation and performance, only the stud books can provide assurance that the breeding of the horse is beyond question. Prior to bloodtyping and DNA typing, the regulations which had to be followed exactly were:

  • A mare or stallion cannot be considered for inclusion in the Australian Stud Book unless its name has been officially registered for it
  • A foal cannot be accepted for inclusion unless:
  • the owner submits acceptable returns and identifies the foal by the prescribed dates
  • the stallion owner has satisfactorily established the identity of the covered mare
  • A mare or stallion cannot be considered for inclusion unless it has been entered in the ASB or an approved foreign stud book as a foal
  • Returns for a mare must commence for the year in which she was served for the first time and from thereon annually.

The measures also enabled the Australian Stud Book to collect accurate fertility figures of stallions and to publish the full breeding records of mares.

Non stud book horses

Always during the compilation of ‘pure bred’ animals, those that do not meet the standard will be flushed out. In the case of racehorses, it is those which were not returned to the Stud Book or had one parent not returned to the Stud Book. Prior to 1980, horses could be registered for racing without pedigree, and it was not uncommon to see a horse listed as “by a station sire out of an unregistered mare.” In 1980 a rule was implemented to prevent horses without registered parents from being officially named. This was to close the records on horses of doubtful origin as the public’s expectation of correct identity increased.

There were also many foals by thoroughbreds which were not recorded with the Stud Book and produced generations of horses in the Non Stud Book Register. If the family produced black type performance, and the pedigree could be traced back eight generations, horses could be promoted to stud book status. A notable case was Redelva 1983, whose 17 stakes wins indicated he must have been a thoroughbred. A pedigree check shows that his great-grand-dam Damelsa was not foal recorded but succeeding generations were mated to stud book sires which enabled Redelva’s dam, Delvena to be promoted to stud book status.

There were several cases of well-performed racehorses which could not be accepted into the Australian Stud Book because their parents had not been previously recorded. One, Rivette 1933, won the Caulfield‚Melbourne Cup double. Another, Aquanita 1956, won 17 stakes races including a Cox Plate, Mackinnon Stakes, Orr Stakes and two Underwood Stakes and stood as a stallion, but none of his progeny could be accepted because his great-granddam, Brilliant Queen, had not been returned to the Australian Stud Book as a foal. In both cases, an accepted method of promotion did not exist at the time.

Achievements of the Keepers

Archie Yuille, compiler, 1878 to 1909

  • Produced nine volumes of the Stud Book in a time when communication was basic
  • Leslie G Rouse, Keeper, 1914 to 1927
  • Include new mares traced to their taproot or approved colonial mare
  • Introduced time limits for the return of mares
  • Loddon Yuille, Keeper 1927 to 1949
  • Vision of an international racing and breeding community
  • Walter “Jim’ McFadden, Keeper 1949 to 1985

A Sydney University veterinary degree graduate in 1947



·         Cross referencing matings with studs and breeders by foaling slips 1953, service certificates, 1969

·         Encouragement of branding before weaning, 1967

·         Published ‘Sires of Australia and New Zealand’, 1961

·         Published ‘Thoroughbred Families of Australia and New Zealand’, 1969

·         Joined the initial International Stud Book Committee, 1976

·         Computerised records, 1977

·         Bloodtyping of stallions 1978 and mares, 1981

·         Compiling the Register of Non-Stud Book Mares, 1980

Roderick Page, Keeper 1985 to 1988
A third-year law student.·         Bloodtyping all foals, 1986

·         Revised documentation system, 1986 ‚ First Service Date Declaration

·         Compulsory freeze branding, 1986


John Digby, Keeper 1988 to 2004

A Sydney University veterinary degree graduate in 1954, gained a Masters of Business Administration from University of NSW in 1973. Born in Ashburton, the South Island of New Zealand.

·         Modernised management systems, 1990

·         Established stud book records on a website, 1997, the first stud book authority to do so

·         Produced a CDROM version of McFadden’s “Thoroughbred Families’ and ‘Sires’ of Australia and New Zealand”” 2001

·         Regulated the date of coverings to determine the age of a foal, 2001

·         Converted bloodtyping to DNA typing, 2003

·         Introduced online mare returns, 2003

·         Implemented microchipping, 2003

·         Established a National Brands Register, 2003

An example of John Digby’s ability to think laterally is the rule to determine the age of a foal. The issue arose with statistics showing an extraordinary number of foals born on 1 August, the horse’s official birthday. Rather than bring in onerous regulations to police this or send race officials to visit studs during the last week of July, Digby looked at the problem from the other side, realising that you cannot control the date of foaling but you can control the date of covering. From this an official starting date for the covering season as 1 September was implemented and any mare which was first covered from that date would have her foal accepted with the current foal crop even if it was born in July. Racing and breeding officials agreed this was a pragmatic solution to an age-old problem and although the outcome was initially criticised by northern hemisphere stud book authorities, the rule was quickly established in New Zealand and South Africa.


Michael Ford, Keeper 2004 to date

A Bachelor of Arts (Communication) from University of Technology Sydney (1977) and a Masters of Business Administration from Southern Cross University (1999). Born in Randwick close to the racecourse, he cites horse trainer Albert McKenna as one of his big influences in gaining a love of the racehorse.


·         Modernised the website, 2004

·         Introduced Foal Identification Card, 2004 and Brand Index Card, 2006

·         Implemented online stallion returns and services, 2005

·         Rebranded image with new logo and trademark, 2005

·         Established an Electronic newsletter, 2005

·         Introduced a personal telephone service for breeders without internet access, 2006



Breeders did not pay stud book fees up to 1949, and the AJC and VRC had provided the equivalent of $1.5 million each towards running the Stud Book assisted by annual contributions from the Principal Racing Clubs. Fees for returning broodmares and registering breeders were introduced in 1950 when the cost of running the Stud Book became too difficult for the Principal Clubs to bear and their contributions ceased. At that time, it cost £1.00 to return a mare ($2.00) or 16% of the basic weekly wage of £6.20. In 2006 mare return fees, at $40, were only 6% of the average wage of $700, whereas the average wage had increased 56 fold and return fees had only increased 20 fold.

The Australian Stud Book fees are still the lowest of all major stud book authorities for the cost of officially identifying a foal. This identification is a virtual guarantee of the pedigree of each horse and means a breeder can sell with assurance while an owner can buy with confidence whether spending one million or one thousand dollars.



Year Staff Broodmares Foals Type of Work
1971 8 16,000 9,000 manual receiving, collating, checking, publishing
1984 38 38,000 18,000 computerising the records
1991 27 36,000 17,000 benefits of computerised recording
2002 17 31,000 18,000 benefits of improved systems and management
2006 12 30,000 18,000 benefits of online systems


Modern Technology

Looking back one hundred years, or even fifty years, one wonders how the Keepers and staff managed to compile and publish the enormous amount of information received in hard copy. Service information would have to be filed alphabetically by stallion name and the results manually written on a broodmare card, also filed alphabetically. Later, foaling slips had to be checked and filed under the dam for each season. Then the information passed to the printing company which would have had to composite the type for each piece of information culminating in stud books of up to 1,700 pages.

Today we have the benefit of modern technology which enables a stud book to be produced virtually by the press of a button. A file is electronically sent to the printing company which turns it into a book. Of course there is more to it with data checking between the two processes but basically it is very simple especially compared to twenty years ago. Nowadays, there are no filing cabinets in the Stud Book’s office at the AJC’s Randwick Racecourse, whereas in 1985 there was a room especially set aside for rows of filing cabinets, with one person dedicated to retrieving and filing records. Foaling slips were kept in shoeboxes, one of which staff have saved from 1962 and which contains, amongst others, the foaling slip for champion mare Citius under her dam Rich And Rare.

The most important relationship the Australian Stud Book has forged since 1980 is with the University of Queensland, which provided a parentage testing service through bloodtyping until 2002. Since then, the University of Queensland’s Australian Equine Genetics Research Centre, a world leader in its field, has supplied a DNA typing service for the joint proprietors of the Stud Book. The independence of this parentage testing service and its quality control protocols ensures breed integrity at the highest level, in which Australian breeders can have complete confidence.


Most people access the Stud Book’s records through its website at studbook.org.au. However, many breeders and collectors own bound sets of stud books, ranging from 1878 to 2005, which they cherish and which form a handsome background to their libraries. Volume 41, published in 2005, contains many new features including a list of every winner of Australia’s major races, plus photographs of the last five years’ winners of these races.


An institution which has survived for over 127 years can only do so if it is strong, adaptable, has independent integrity and the confidence of the people it is serving. From its early days, the Australian Stud Book has matured from a bureaucratic regulatory organisation, which was necessary for much of the first eighty years, to an organic body capable of adopting and adapting new technology for the ultimate benefit of breeders. This change only eventuated with the advent of technology in the 1980s with bloodtyping and DNA typing, computers, microchips and the internet.

Until this technology was available, Keepers had no other recourse than the strict regime of paperwork and deadlines in order to verify the breeding details of racehorses. Modern technology enables the Stud Book to streamline the receipt of information by being able to verify it scientifically and produce an easy method of identifying a racehorse. This adoption of technology paradoxically means the Stud Book itself can take on a role of a coach to encourage and urge breeders to lodge the breeding details themselves online rather than as a hectoring bureaucrat. This is reflected in the positive attitude of its staff in their dealings with breeders.

Credit must also be given to the owners of the Stud Book known as the Joint Proprietors, the Australian Jockey Club and the Victoria Racing Club for their vision and support. They maintained the fledgling Australian Stud Book in its early days when owned elsewhere, nurtured it for decades after they bought the publishing rights, and today provide guidance that brings industry confidence to what the Stud Book is doing for breeders by guaranteeing the identity of their foals. Or, as its mission states: ensuring the integrity of thoroughbred breeding in Australia.


·         Arrold, Tony: The Australian newspaper, Dec 1985

·         Australian Racing Board website

·         Cavalcade of Ballaarat, Nathan F. Spielvogel webpage

·         First Families 2001 website

·         Freedman, H & Lemon, A: History of Austarlian Thoroughbred, 1990

·         Gordon, W.F. 2005: Australian Stud Book prefaces, 1878-2000

·         Jenkins, Arthur: History of Sebastopol, Sebastopol Secondary College webpage

·         Maguire, Brian: Bicentennial Australian Stud Book foreward, 1988

·         Melton, History & Heritage, 2005, Melton Shire Council webpage

·         Osborne, Brian G. (Tasmanian Racing Club): Bloodstock Breeders Review, 1951

·         Sydney Morning Herald/Travel, 17 Feb 2005

·         Wells, Jeff: National Times, Jan. 1986

·         Wicks, Bert: Racehorse Syndicator, 1984

·         W.J. McFadden’s speeches, 1970-1980

Thanks to Bill Gordon for editing and Graham Caves for historical material.