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Bulls respond well to a good stockman

In the Australian lexicon, stockman is the traditional name given to a person who looks after the livestock on a large property known as a station, which is owned by a grazier or a grazing company. They may also be the persons employed at abattoirs, feedlots, on livestock export ships or with stock and station agencies.

Station employees, including stockmen, who work at a number of different occupations within their work, are known as station hands. Trainee station managers are known as jackaroos (female trainee managers are known as jillaroos). Girls are now popular for stock work on many properties as they have been acknowledged as having a natural affinity for the handling of livestock.[1] Some stations are now making changes for the employment of women by building female living quarters and installing hydraulic cattle crushes etc.[2] An associated occupation is that of the drover, who, like the shearer may be an itinerant worker, and is employed in tending to livestock while they are travelling on a stock route.

The term stockman has been used in the United States and Canada as a formal term for a person who owns and raises livestock, principally cattle. Rancher or stockgrower also carry a similar meaning in the USA. The meaning differs from the Australian use of the word stockman, which is more akin to the American concept of a cowboy.



Stockman, an Australian Stock Horse and Kelpies ready for work on Australian property.
Pannikin, quart pot and saddle bag used by stockmen to boil the billy and carry lunch when riding.

The employment of mounted workers to tend livestock is necessitated in Australia by the large size of the "properties" which may be called sheep stations or cattle stations, depending upon the type of stock. In the inland regions of most states excluding Victoria and Tasmania, cattle stations may exceed 10,000 km² with the largest being Anna Creek station at 24,000 km² (6,000,000 acres).

Stockmen traditionally ride horses, use working dogs and a stockwhip for stock work and mustering, but motorised vehicles are increasingly used. Sometimes the vehicles that are used are four-wheel drive (4WD) "paddock-bashers", which are often old unregistered utilities. These vehicles may also be modified by removing the top and fitting roll and bull bars for bull or buffalo catching.[3]

Early stockmen were specially selected, highly regarded men owing to the high value and importance of early livestock. All stockmen need to be interested in animals, able to handle them with confidence and patience, able to make accurate observations about them and enjoy working outdoors.

The role of the mounted stockmen came into being early in the 19th century, when in 1813 the Blue Mountains separating the coastal plain of the Sydney region from the interior of the continent was crossed. The town of Bathurst was founded shortly after, and potential farmers moved westward, and settled on the land, many of them as squatters. The rolling country, ideal for sheep and the large, often unfenced, properties necessitated the role of the mounted stockmen.

The traditional attire of a stockman or grazier is a felt Akubra hat; a double flapped, two pocket (for stock notebooks) cotton shirt; a plaited kangaroo skin belt carrying a stockman's pocket knife in a pouch; light coloured, stockman cut, moleskin trousers with brown elastic side boots. The moleskin trousers have now largely been replaced by jeans. The plaited belt is often replaced by a working stockman or ringer with a belt known as a Queensland Utility Strap which can be used as a belt, neck strap, lunch-time hobble or a tie for a “micky”. [4] This attire is still used in Australian Stock Horse competitions. Pocket knives may be used to castrate and/or earmark an animal, to bang cattle tails or in an emergency to cut free an animal entangled in a rope or horse tack.[5] Specially designed and cut for riding, oilskin coats are used during wet weather.


A stockman is responsible for the care for livestock and treatment of their injuries and illnesses. This includes: feeding, mustering, droving, branding, castrating, ear tagging, weighing, vaccinating livestock and dealing with their predators. Stockmen need to be able age by dentition cattle, sheep and occasionally horses. ‎ Those caring for sheep will regularly have to deal with flystrike treatments, jetting animals, worm control and lamb marking. Pregnant livestock usually receive special care in late pregnancy and stockmen may have to deal with dystocia.

Mustering is done with horses or vehicles including All-terrain vehicles (ATV), and some of the large cattle stations use helicopters or light aircraft to assist in the mustering and surveillance of livestock and their watering points. Cattle mustering in the Outback and the eastern ‘Falls’ country of the Great Dividing Range often necessitates days camping out in isolated areas and sleeping in a swag (bedroll) on the ground with limited food choices. Damper is a traditional type of bread that was baked by stockmen during colonial times, or nowadays when the bread supply has been exhausted. It is made with self-raising flour, salt and water and is usually cooked in a camp oven over the embers of a fire. In these areas the days in the saddle are often very long as the cattle have to be mustered and then driven to yards or a paddock where they can be held.

Apart from livestock duties a stock person will inspect, maintain and repair fences, gates and yards that have been broken by storms, fallen trees, livestock and wildlife.

A number of equestrian sports are particularly associated with stockmen. These include campdrafting, team penning, tentpegging and polocrosse, as well as working dog trials. The sports are played in local and state competitions and are often a feature of agricultural shows such as the Sydney Royal Easter Show. Stockman challenges are also gaining in popularity across the eastern states of Australia. In this event competitors show their skills by whipcracking, packing a packhorse (to be lead around a course), bareback obstacle course, cross country, shoeing and stock handling competing in a single Australian Stock Saddle. The best will compete in a final with a brumby catch and a second final section of a stock saddle buckjump ride where they have to mark out carrying a stockwhip, or a timed obstacle event.[6]

Cultural depictions of stockmen

As with the cowboy of North America, the role of the stockmen has often been celebrated in various media, though generally in a less glamorized manner, the stockman being generally more highly renowned for his ability to bring down a bullock than an outlaw and for sharp wit rather than sharp shooting.

Two well-known songs commemorate the death of a stockman, the anonymous "Wrap me up with my stockwhip and blanket" and Rolf Harris's "Tie me kangaroo down, Sport".

Through the 19th and early 20th centuries the writing of balladic poetry was a favoured form of literary expression, and the public recitation of such pieces remains a feature of Australian folk festivals. The majority of the most popular ballads deal with rural subject and many are specifically about stockmen. These works include Adam Lindsay Gordon's "Bush Ballads and Galloping Rhymes" which includes the "Sick Stock Rider", and, most famously, Banjo Paterson's epic poem "The Man from Snowy River".

"The Man from Snowy River" was to become the source of three movies, one in 1920, and another in 1982 to be followed by a sequel. A TV series followed called "Banjo Paterson's The Man from Snowy River". In 2002 the story was shown as live musical theatre called "The Man from Snowy River: Arena Spectacular".

The inspiration for this musical performance came from the Opening Ceremony of the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, when the performance opened with 121 stockmen and women riding Australian Stock Horses in a "muster", (known in America as a roundup) and symbolising a gathering of people from across the world, in the same way as the stockmen "mustered at the station" in Banjo Paterson's famous poem. The muster took place to music written by Bruce Rowland, who composed a special Olympics version of the main theme for the 1982 movie "The Man from Snowy River".

A further tribute to the stockman derives from the fact that for a number of years the promotions of the Sydney Royal Easter Show have referred to it as "The Great Australian Muster".

In Longreach, Queensland, Australia, a Museum and Memorial called the Australian Stockman's Hall of Fame was established to pay tribute to the pioneers of the Australian Outback.

Famous stockmen

See also


  1. ^ The Telegraph - Jillaroos bring feminine touch to Outback farms Retrieved on 2009-6-9
  2. ^ Campdraft Rules
  3. ^ Beattie, William A., Beef Cattle Breeding & Management, Popular Books, 1990, ISBN 0-7301-0040-5
  4. ^ Solid Hide Belts Retrieved on 6-2-2009
  5. ^ Traditional pocket knife Retrieved on 5-2-2009
  6. ^ Snowy River Stockman's Challenge Retrieved on 6 December 2008

External links



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