Numerous horses were shipped aboard the Wimmera, for conveying across the Tasman between Australian and New Zealand ports as well on coastal passages. Many of these were racehorses, destined to compete in races as well as breeds such as the draught horse, for breeding or for show.
In April 1905 a Mr John Small of Wheatstone, brought six three-year old draught stallions from Ashburton to Lyttelton for shipment to Sydney aboard the SS Wimmera. Small had previously sought horses to purchase from both North and South Islands for consignment to Australia.
In May 1910, a Mr Hollywood brought ten horses on the steamer on her New Zealand coastal voyage up to Auckland from the South. The passage from Gisborne took over 25 hours and the vessel had strong head winds the whole way. Of the ten horses, it was reported that the ‘best one’ died and was cast overboard.[i]
One of the highest numbers of horses shipped on a single voyage was sixty-four in March 1912 between Auckland and Sydney. Many of these were sent for sale by a Mr William Herron. Shortly after their arrival, Sydney auctioneers William Inglis and Son advertised as having ‘just arrived ex S.S. Wimmera’ ’20 exceptionally good heavy and medium draught horses, comprising 16 fillies and mares, from 2 to 6 years old, some with pedigrees, including one with foal at foot to an imported sire, and 4 geldings, 3 to 6 years old’[ii]. On behalf of another New Zealand vendor, Mr J. D. Mitchell, the firm offered for sale another eight horses‘, also arrived by the Wimmera, comprising ‘six high-class heavy draught pedigree fillies and mares, 2 to 6 years; and two extra heavy geldings, 3 and 4 years old.’
In 1906, the champion Suffolk Punch stallion, ‘Sudbourn Sirdar’, was imported into New Zealand aboard the Wimmera. The horse, listed on the English Suffolk Stud Book, was originally imported into Australia from England by R. H. Dangar, owner of the Neotsfield Stud, Whittingham, near Singleton, New South Wales[iii]. The stallion arrived in Wellington aboard the steamer on Wednesday 26 September. Within days the services of the stallion as a sire were being advertised by his new owner, J. Wilson of Wanganui.
The Suffolk Punch, considered one of the rarest draught horse breeds in the world…
Horses often noted as crossing the Tasman between Australia and New Zealand and between coastal ports were racehorses which were being sent to race or stabled.
During the Wimmera’s period of service a number of named racing thoroughbreds were recorded as being transported aboard her. Some of these horses had already established or would establish credible reputations. These included:
- Aleger, Antoinette, Armlet, Audax, Auldearn
- Blue Mountain, Boniform, Bootle, British Arch, Busra
- Caber Devon, Captain Shannon, Caruso, Chivalry, Cinque, Colleen Mary, Count Witte, Cruesot, Crusty Maid, Cyretius
- Dan Patch, Day Fly, Don Quex, Dreadless
- English, Etna
- Faunus, Flying Soult, Fuss
- Garrison, Gee Wizz, Glenora, Goodwin Sands, Grampian
- Haku, Haskayne, Hoanga, Hopscotch, Huascar
- Inatore, Iney, Isolt
- Kakama, King Billy, King Hippo, Kohinoor, Komata, Kopane
- Lady Alicia, Lady Rohina, Le Beau, Leeside, Little Dave, Lochino
- Mahinga, Mahutonga, Manakua, Maorangi, Maori King, Maplewood, Martyrium, Master Soult, Matakokiri, Mataura, Melodeon, Merriwai, Mistake, Mistime, Monody, Monoform, Monoplane, Monorail, Moriatry, Mozart, Multiple, Muttana
- Nadador, Nameless, Napper Tandy, Needlework, Nightfall
- Odist, Orella, Our King, Our Queen
- Palisade, Papanui, Patronus, Pearey, Pohutu, Porcelain
- Rosavere, Royal Glen, Royal Scotland, Rutter
- Sabre, Sal Tasker, Savoury, Scorch, Sea Pink, Sharkey, Sinn Fein, Sir Artegal, Sir Tristram, Sister Radius, Soultline, Soultoria, Spaniard, St Joe, Stainer, Star Shoot, Stylish, Sublime, Suddourn Sirdar, Sylvite
- Te Arai, The Golfer, The Toff, Tim Doolan, Toa Tere, Turbine
- Waipipi, Waipu, Wairaka, Waitapu, Whatashot and Wirral
In August 1906 a team of horses from Yaldhurst, comprising Boniform, Huascar, Isolt and Porcelain, all belonging to Mr. G. G. Stead, were brought across the Tasman by veteran trainer Mr. R. J. Mason. Mason described the liner [Wimmera] as “…a great sea-boat, a fact that was fortunate for both passengers and horses, as she experienced an exceedingly rough passage, one of the worse, in fact [that Mason had] ever undertaken.
It was reported that ‘The horses all bear evidence of having done plenty of work, and looked none the worse for their rough sea journey when they landed at the Royal Hotel, Randwick, where they are due to be quartered.’ All four horses were engaged to run during the forthcoming A.J.C. spring meeting.
The embarkation of horses was not always an easy task as the following article illustrated:
Some trouble was experienced in attempting to ship the well-known race-horse Kakama from Auckland to Sydney by the Wimmera on Monday evening. The horse, in company, with several others, was brought to the ship’s side, and as it was anticipated that Kakama would cause a little trouble, the others were shipped first. All attempts to induce the horse to enter the box to be hoisted on board proved futile, and nearly an hour was spent in the endeavor to coax or push the animal into the box. At one time it appeared that the efforts of the men would be rewarded, but just as Kakama placed one of her fore feet on the floor of the box she suddenly reared, and fell backwards on the wharf. The horse was not injured, as a bundle of straw had been previously spread on the wharf, and she scrambled to her feet, lashing out in great fury. An unusually large crowd had gathered to watch the proceedings, and the excited animal raced about the wharf, the crowd scattering in all directions. One individual, in his haste to get out of the way of the animal’s flying feet, tripped, and fell over the edge of the wharf. Luckily, in his fall, he clutched one of the steel hawser, and remained suspended between the ship and the wharf for some minutes. He was eventually helped ashore by willing hands. All attempts to ship the horse were shortly afterwards abandoned, and the mare was taken back to her quarters.
Manawatu Times, Volume LXV, Issue 1831, 24 January 1913, Page 7
[i] Poverty Bay Herald, Volume XXXVII, Issue 12148, 16 May 1910, Page 5
© Ralph L. Sanderson 2004-2021