Shifting a steer

A Shorthorn steer. (Photo: Rathicca Chandra)

George Main, curator of our Never Enough Grass module, tells us about the Shorthorn steer in our exhibit on Derby. 

Recently we installed a Shorthorn steer, prepared by a taxidermist, into the exhibit about Derby, a town in the west Kimberly region of northwest Western Australia. The steer belonged to a long established Shorthorn herd owned by the Emanuel family, who for more than a century held a number of pastoral stations in the west Kimberley.

In the late 1880s, soon after their arrival in the west Kimberley region from Goulburn in New South Wales, the Emanuel family decided to expand their herd of several hundred Shorthorn cattle. They bought new stock from the Durack family in the east Kimberley, and developed large herds to take advantage of the burgeoning live cattle trade between Derby and Fremantle. By 1910 one Emanuel station alone carried 30,000 cattle.

The Emanuel brothers bred a ‘rangy’ type of Shorthorn. Slender and with long legs, these cattle could endure lengthy walks to pasture and water, and they maintained their condition when walked to Derby for shipping to the Fremantle markets. These cattle had short, ‘cherry red’ coats that helped them cope with the extreme heat and humidity of the Kimberley, and protected them from the harsh tropical sun.

In 1984 the Emanuel family sold their west Kimberley properties and moved south to Pinjarra, near Perth. They took a breeding herd of their Shorthorn cattle. Today that herd numbers about 4000. This steer was born at Pinjarra in 2007. Bred to be sold for meat at around one year old, it was identified for display in the Museum and remained on the property until 2009. The specimen displays many of the characteristics bred by the Emanuel family into their Shorthorn herd during the century they spent in the west Kimberley.

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