What happened to the horses when war ended?

During the first war, Walers horses were used by light horsemen because they were sturdy, hardy horses, able to travel long distances in hot weather with little water.

The horses were called Walers because, even though they came from all parts of Australia, they were originally sold through New South Wales.

Horses of war
A typical Australian bred transport horse in the service of the Anzac Mounted Division.

In 1918, the end of the war was declared, leaving millions of soldiers looking forward to finally returning home. Their Waler horses, on the other-hand, faced a far less certain future.

At the end of the War Australians had thousands of surplus horses which could not be returned home for quarantine reasons. Disease posed a threat to Australia’s livestock industry, plus the cost to return them, outweighed what the horses were worth.

Of these, 11,000 were sold, the majority as remounts for the British Army in India. The fate of the rest of the Army’s horses depended on their age and fitness. The unfit and older horses would be destroyed.

In February 1919 veterinary officers began examining the horses. Sadly, mounts that were over 15 years old (draught horses), unsound horses, a riding horse over 12 years old, and those requiring more than 2 months’ treatment were marked for destruction.

Casting of Horses and Mules (PDF document)

Horse hair was valuable, so the ones destined for destruction had their manes and tails shorn, and their shoes removed. They were then led to a selected spot near their camps, and shot with pistols. Lastly, they were gutted and their skins salted, as these were valuable too.

Veterinary officers examines horses of the 15th Light Horse Regiment, AIF.
The fate of the horses depending on the findings of the Veterinary officers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *