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Van Diemen’s drovers

Droving was once a way of life for cattlemen all over Australia, not just in the outback. Even Tasmania had its droving traditions, as the re-enactment of a famous late 19th/early 20th century events readily attests.

Story: Danny Gardner
Photos: Simon Plowright

ImageCome on girl, come on, come on girl! Come on! The drovers’ calls and whistles and horses’ blowing ring out in the morning air, nudging the often-complaining cattle towards the fast-flowing Pieman River in north-west Tasmania. It’s a scene harking back to the 1880s in this part of the island state – one that hasn’t occurred since 1936, but for more than 50 years from the 1880s was the culmination of droving trips for cattle bound for winter pastures.

This is the 2004 Greenham Bicentenary Cattle Drive, the brainchild of MP Tony Fletcher, that is part of Tasmania’s celebration of 200 years of white settlement. Seven drovers with 107 cattle are following old droving tracks to Granville Harbour, where in the old days stock were fattened and sent to Zeehan for slaughter. Back then the absence of refrigeration made cattle on the hoof vital to the mining districts’ demand for fresh meat.
It’s difficult to know from ill-kept records exactly when the droving trips began (the early 1880s is the general consensus) and how many cattlemen and drovers were involved. But routes like the Montagu, Emmetts and Sand Tracks through buttongrass and ti-tree scrub verging into more heavily-timbered country, had been established hand-in-hand with the explorations of prospecting miners and farmers. Story end

Full story OUTBACK Issue 37 October/November 2004

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