Waler Export 1834

Waler Export 1834

Reprinted in ‘Horsemen of the First Frontier (1788 – 1900) and The Serpents Legacy’ by Keith R Binney. Publisher: Volcanic Productions

Featured Image: The primitive transport of ‘Walers’ from NSW to Madras (Chennai) in c. 1834

While quality Arabic-type thoroughbreds were being imported from mainly India it was not long before NSW working stock horses were heading in the opposite direction.

Between 1600 and until independence in 1947 India had become increasingly ‘British’. Firstly the nascent British East India Company was set up with headquarters at No I Leadenhall Street in the City of London. They were granted exclusive rights by Act of Parliament for trade with the Far East. This was largely to counter the Dutch already in operation in the Spice Trade and also the aspirational French. Since settlement at Botany Bay/Port Jackson in 1788 in theory the British East India Company had exclusive entitlements over trade with the new colony. Sir Francis Baring took exception to the activities of colonist John Macarthur who he attacked as ‘that serpent we are nurturing at Botany Bay’!

The British in India required superior horses for cavalry, transport, communication, sport and recreation. This applied both to the British East India Company and later the British Army in India. Following the First Indian War of Independence (‘Mutiny’) in 1857 Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India in 1858. The British East India Company faded and British Government forces took control. They all needed a regular supply of superior horseflesh. The nascent colony of NSW would be one of the main sources. This export industry began quite early; probably from about 1830. It was a two-way system of trade which still exists today.

There exist some evocative paintings of the transport of horses by Brigantine Transport (Sailing Boats). Loading and unloading of fractious young horses by boat must have been perilous at the best of times. It would have been terminal in the worst of conditions both at sea and on shore?