Outback MagazineOutback Magazine


Running with the bulls

Story Heather Brown
Photos Andrew Rankin

ImageIn the beginning, the Northern Territory was a blank page, and its characters were created in its own likeness - tough, wild and unpredictable.

But, despite its size and its vast, brooding landscapes the Territory is now a settled place. The cattle are branded, major highways are sealed, and there are telephones, helicopters and tourists as far as the eye can see. Yet it remains one of the last great frontiers on earth.

The story of John Quintana, 52, is something of a frontier story for the 21st century, as romantic as it is remarkable. The former world champion bull rider arrived in 1987 from the United States with the kind of reputation that placed him on a pedestal in a place like the Territory. He bought Waterloo, a Kimberley station with plenty of wild cattle and few fences.

But once he had shaped it into a proper station, he discovered the curse of the isolated north - there weren't enough markets for his cattle. So he created his own. He began exporting live cattle in 1991, and by 1997 was exporting nearly $50 million worth a year.

The Asian crash hit him hard and he was written off as another fatality. But he bounced back and last year exported $40 million worth of cattle. That John Quintana has become something of a hero in the north is itself remarkable, for adulation in the Territory of a former American cowboy once might have been heresy. Not now. For many, Quintana has become an inspiration, the man who reminds them that anything is possible.

ImageForget appearances. He is neither American nor Spanish. He is a Basque, a blood member of what anthropologists believe is Europe's oldest race. Each morning in July, six bulls run down the narrow streets of Pamplona.

Each evening, the crowds gather to party, drink and dance. For the Basque, the bull is a symbol of courage and strength.

And the blood runs true. At Carbeen Park homestead - Quintana's Katherine (NT) property - every fence is painted terracotta red, and it seems more hacienda than homestead.

Inside the house there are stone floors and Navajo rugs, cowboy boots, Vaquero ropes, bulls' horns and paintings of another place where the horses come down from the mountains and the snows come down in the fall.

"Of course it looks Spanish," he says with a sigh. "That's because I am." Story end

Full story: Issue 16, April/ May 2001

Go to:


Subscribe today

Subscribe now and receive each bi-monthly issue for only $45 mailed to any address in Australia. Overseas rates at Subscription Centre. OUTBACK has been Australia's fastest-growing magazine for the past two years in a row.

R.M. Williams Summer 2004/5 Catalogue

Visit rmwilliams.com.au for R.M.Willams history, news and the on-line product catalogue