Bullock Team Facts, History & General Information

Rohan the Bullocky's Gleneden Bullock Team and Heritage Skills farm displays are a window into Australia's pioneering and transport history.

When development outstripped the capacity of convict labour it was working bullocks that provided the muscle needed in our infant colony. While Australia "rode on the sheep's back" the wool that brought our prosperity rode the dusty miles from outback stations to the port on lumbering bullock wagons. Today, when people nostalgically recall the good old days it is the colourful bullocky and his mighty, patient bullocks who are often brought to mind. Bullockies and their teams have inspired the pens of some of our greatest writers of poetry and prose.

Today bullock teams are almost a thing of the past... almost.

Determined to help save Australia's bush heritage from being forever lost, Rohan the Bullocky has been learning and practicing since his teens a wide range of crafts and skills. The foremost of these being his working bullock team.

What is a Bullock Team?

A bullock (or ox) is a mature, desexed bull. Bullocks are usually harnessed in pairs as their strong necks make them ideally suited to wearing a wooden yoke which efficiently transfers their draught power through a chain or pole to the load. When two or more pairs of bullocks are harnessed together to perform draught work, you have a bullock team.

Bullocks have been used singly and in pairs or teams for much of human history. Bullock teams had their peak in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, particularly in the rapidly developing countries of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. In Australia, as many as thirty bullocks driven by one man, were used to haul enormous loads on massive wagons long distances from outback farms and stations to their destinations on the coast.

Why did people choose to have a Bullock Team?

In a developing country like Australia, a bullock team had many advantages over other forms of transport. Compared to convict labour they were much stronger and probably much easier to control and get along with. Cattle were included in the livestock that arrived on the first fleet and they did very well here, rapidly increasing in number. In comparison to horses bullocks have always been much cheaper to aquire when young and of much greater value when they are old. Additionally, the harness for a bullock team can be made from almost nothing other than scrap metal and bush timber in the hands of an amateur blacksmith and timber worker. On the other hand, producing a horse's harness is a job for a highly skilled saddler and could cost as much as the horse itself.

Bullock teams were renouned for their steady, patient and determined pull in difficult situations where horses were prone to jerkiness and panic leading to expensive injuries and breakages. Bullocks didn't often need shoeing and could live and work on rough herbage rather than the expensive feed required by working horses. It wasn't until improved road surfaces meant that the greater strength and speed of draught horses could be put to advantage, that bullock teams began to be displaced on the road.

In our forests and on our farms bullocks have been used up to the present day. Australia's last full-time professional bullockies retired from the forest in the early 2000's, but there are still a few hardy individuals who train and yoke bullock teams as hobbies, for demonstrations or for part-time work in forests and on farms. In the case of Rohan the Bullocky, his bullock team began as a hobby, developed into a genuine working team and is now available on and off his farm for displays.

This short 13 minute documentary was made in 1969. It is about a Bullocky named Vic Deaves who worked bullocks for a living all his life in the Hunter Valley of New South Wales. The doco was made by 'The Commonwealth Film Unit'. Directed by Richard Mitchell.

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