HORSE MEMORABILIA FROM THE BOER WAR

Ballarat Bob's Hoof <br />Image: Ballarat Historical Society Collection (78.0618)

Ballarat Bob’s Hoof
Image: Ballarat Historical Society Collection (78.0618)

One of the more unusual items housed at the Gold Museum is this hoof belonging to ‘Ballarat Bob,’ the war horse of Colonel Thomas Price (1842-1911), who established the Victorian Mounted Rifles Regiment in 1885. It is one of a number of military history items in the Ballarat Historical Society’s collection.

The bottom of the hoof still has its original shoe attached, and the official government registration number 196 inscribed on the toe.  The top features a metal plaque, on which is engraved ‘Hoof Of Ballarat Bob, The Gallant Charger Who Carried His Master Through The Boer War 1900 And Was Shot Under Him At Treufontein [sic], 9th September, 1900.  Presented To The Mayor And Corporation Of Ballarat By Colonel Price, C.O., V.M.R., S.A.’

Ballarat Bob's Hoof <br />Image: Ballarat Historical Society Collection (78.0618)

Ballarat Bob’s Hoof
Image: Ballarat Historical Society Collection (78.0618)

The hoof serves as a poignant reminder of Australia’s equestrian casualties in the Boer War, where tens of thousands of horses were sent to South Africa, and few if any returned. There are no official statistics for these casualties, and those that are available in other sources vary greatly. One book reports total number of horses killed to be 326,000, of which between 16,357 to 37,245 were Australian (Mather, J 2007, Forgotten Heroes: The Australian Whaler Horse, Bookbound Publishing, Ourimbah, p.79).

Boer War Soldiers Statue, Ballarat, FitzGerald Postcard Collection (83.10616) Image: Gold Museum Collection

Boer War Soldiers Statue, Ballarat
Image: FitzGerald Postcard Collection (83.10616), Gold Museum

Although it seems a grotesque souvenir to contemporary eyes, the hoof also provides an insight into the bond between the soldier and his mount. It is clear that Colonel Price valued the service of Ballarat Bob so highly that he wanted to preserve part of him to be returned to the horse’s ‘home’ town.

There are a small number of horse hooves in collections across the world, but this one is of particular interest for its direct connections to Ballarat and Colonel Price.  This hoof has not been as elaborately remodelled as many others, although it may have pieces missing.  The gap in the centre of the plaque suggests it may also have been used as an inkwell, as similar Victorian and Edwardian animal mementos were used in this way.

To see examples of horse hoof memorabilia in other museum collections, please visit:

Poster of Boer War Soldiers Statue in Ballarat, featuring portraits of Ballarat and district soldiers killed in South Africa. Image: Ballarat Historical Society Photograph Collection (173.80)

Poster of Boer War Soldiers Statue in Ballarat, featuring portraits of Ballarat and district soldiers killed in South Africa.
Image: Ballarat Historical Society Photograph Collection (173.80)

Names of the Ballarat and district soldiers killed in South Africa, as listed on the image to the left (Ballarat Historical Society Photograph Collection, No. 173.80):

  • Left side – Capt. R.W. Salmon, Sgt. Foster, Surgeon Lt. H.A. Palmer, Sgt. J.S. Molloy, Lt. S.R. Coulter, Lt. A.G. Gilpin, Lt. Johnson
  • Right side – Mr. G.A. Eddy, Pte. J. Hurst, Sgt. A.T. Allen, Sgt. C. Vaughan, Pte. J. Exon, Sgt. Neil Grant, Pte. A.R. Burnley

To find out more about the Boer War, please visit:

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