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Carts, Drays, Horses and Bullocks

Carts and Drays – Horses and Bullocks

After the gold rushes settled down it was apparent that they had contributed greatly to the opening up of the country. Mud tracks, usually bullock tracks, certainly not worthy of the name ‘roads’, had been flattened by the continuing flow of pedestrian and vehicular traffic. Businesses had also been established to provide for the travellers needs be it accommodation, thirst or general hardware.

Because the cry of ‘Rush away’ was frequent and the miners fickle, the roads had grown quickly and effectively. Some led to valleys and creeks but, generally, they were a network that led to the next service town. Bullock drays were replaced by horse teams and, eventually, rail and motorised transport noisily pushed most of the faithful four-legged conveyances out of the way. The story of transport in Australia is a fascinating one that is still happening. There are plenty of songs, poems and lore created around transport.

Here’s a short parody poem I collected from an anonymous manuscript (circa 1890s) in the Mitchell library. It has shades of Holy Dan. From what I can work out the old time bullockies really were top of the searing brigade. I was told that a strong curse is the only way to get the bullocks to behave.

The Converted Bullock Driver

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Here’s a ditty I wrote down in the early seventies. Apparently a bullocky in the Hill End district used to shout it from his five-horse dray when he passed another bullocky. I’m not too sure what a ‘tip and slasher’ was but the ‘ribbons’ referred to his reins.

Billy McMahon

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Another bullocky song remnant was supposedly written for an old Gundagai storekeeper Frederick Gosse.

Mitchell Library.

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From Midlands Tasmania
Here lies who wheaten straw did munch
Jones’ old grey gelding punch
No horse could better know the road
For half the time it was his abode
Long time he suffered from the gripe

Or disarrangement’s of his tripe

But now he’s gone, his troubles past
Tom Roundtree saw him breathe his last.


1870s description
The saddle generally used for packing consisted of a pair of well-stuffed leather covered flaps, extending from behind the horses shoulders to the flanks. On each flap near the top was riveted a stout wooden batten to give stability to the saddle and the whole was joined across the horses back by two iron arches, standing well up over the horse’s backbone. On these arches were two iron hooks on which to hang the side pack. The saddle had tow girths, breastplate and crupper to keep it in position. It had four pack straps fitted to rings to hang on the saddle hooks and surcingle about 15 ft long to go round the complete pack. And hold everything in place.


Kiama Independent Advertiser 1887

“Do you know the nature of an oath ma’am?” inquired the judge.
“Well, I reckon I ‘orter” came the reply.
“my husband’s a bullock driver.”


Matthew Mark Luke and John
Hold my horse while I get on