Walers | State Library of New South Wales

Walers: Colonial bred horses

During the 1840s an important trade developed exporting Australian horses to India. Horses bred in New South Wales were quickly dubbed 'Walers' and, gaining a reputation for sturdiness and stamina, they were soon being exported to India for use by the British army who were desperately short of mounts. The horses were held in high regard and sold for a good profit.

On 25 January 1844, the Henrietta departed Port Jackson for Calcutta with a cargo of horses, beginning the regular export of colonial horse stock to India. The ship included horses owned by a number of prominent colonial traders and pastoralists including W. C. Wentworth and William Bowman.

Daniel Wilson (1819-1880) was in charge of the consignment of horses onboard. His detailed journal is a rare first-hand account of the colonial horse trade. He was responsible for the overall care of the horses and chronicles their illnesses, accidents, reactions to the voyage and his own treatments of them, as well as recording details of the general running of the ship. After unloading all the horses in Calcutta on 5 April 1844, the ship sailed for London on 16 May 1844.

The horses survived the journey remarkably well, despite the difficult conditions and cramped confines of the ship for almost three months. Apart from stiffness and general complaints, most of them were in good condition. Wilson, though, was exhausted with attending to their daily needs –

I am at this present moment quite wearied out and should it please divine Providence that I return once more to Sydney, I pledge myself that nothing shall induce me to leave it with any more horses. (Daniel Wilson, 15 March 1844)

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Extract from Memorandum of a journal on board the ship Henrietta from Sydney to Calcutta and thence to London, 1844-1845, by Daniel Wilson. Manuscript. MLMSS 5960

TRANSCRIPT of Daniel WilsoN journal, 13 March - 15 March 1844. (MLMSS 5960).

Wednesday, 13th. March

I was called up this morning at half past one oclock to get one of Bowman's horse up which had fallen down through fatigue, he could not stand on his legs so we were compelled to bring him out of his stall and let him lay down on the decks, with some hay under for two hours. The weather rather squally. Put the Ship about, not laying her Course by five Points. Went to bed at Three oclock, turned out as usual in the morning five oclock. Put Bowman horse into his stall. Bled him, fed all the others. The mare Tewes very bad with a cough, bled her and gave a hot mash. 11 oclock it commenced raining very heavily, the men busily employed in catching the rain water. 12 oclock the Captain not able to obtain a Sight of the Sun. 2 oclock the horse Eucalyptus blowing very high and feverish, bled him when he broke out into a strong sweat, Rigler and myself rubbed him thoroughly dry and put him into a loose box, where he layed down and enjoyed himself for two hours without even getting up. Four oclock one of Wentworths horses bad with the gripes. Bled him and gave a gripe drink which gave releif for a short time, when he was taken bad again. Sat up with him till four oclock, he apears Something easier. The sickness was occasioned by giving the rain water to drink.

Thursday 14th. March

The weather still Squally with rain, making very little progress. Wentworths horse still very bad, bled him and gave a glister, but gave no releif, I have no hopes of his recovery. Eucalyptus still blowing high and feverish, gave him a fever ball and a glister; the mare Tewes coughing very bad; the remainder of the horses coughing more or less, but dare not bleed them on account of the unsettled state of the weather. 12 oclock Latitude 4 degrees 15 miles. Towards noon the weather more settled when I bled some of the horses and gave a cough ball. Nothing of any note occurred during the remainder part of the Evening till about 10 oclock when Wentworths horse died.

I cannot speak too highly of the Ship's crew, they render me assistance any hour of the night or day that I call upon them.

Friday 15th March

I was compelled to sit up the greater part of last night with Eucalyptus, he is still blowing very high and feverish; gave him a fever ball and recourse to the glister pipe and after getting a good passage through him he was something easier. The remainder of the horses still coughing and are regular worn out through standing so long on their legs.

The weather light and variable, attended with some heavy Squalls of rain.  I am at this present moment quite wearied out and should it please divine Providence that I return once more to Sydney, I pledge myself that nothing shall induce me to leave it with any more horses. 12 oclock latitude four degrees fifty Six miles. After lunch had a sleep till dinner time, when I awoke with severe Pains in the head and back. Nothing occurred up to 11 oclock when I turned in for the night.

> View complete record and transcipt for Daniel Wilson's journal, via the Library's catalogue catalogue link