Stock route
In Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

, the Travelling Stock Route (TSR) is an authorised thoroughfare for the walking of domestic livestock
Livestock refers to one or more domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food, fiber and labor. The term "livestock" as used in this article does not include poultry or farmed fish; however the inclusion of these, especially poultry, within the meaning...

 such as sheep or cattle from one location to another. The TSRs are known collectively as "The Long Paddock".

A Travelling Stock Route may be easily distinguished from an ordinary country road by the fact that the grassy verges on either side of the road are very much wider, and the property fences being set back much further from the roadside than is usual. The reason for this is so that the livestock may feed on the vegetation that grows on the verges as they travel.

Other types of Travelling Stock Routes include the rugged remote TSR that follows the Guy Fawkes River
Guy Fawkes River
The Guy Fawkes River is a river in northern New South Wales, Australia that runs from the south to north along the valley of the Demon Fault Line in the Guy Fawkes River National Park....

 through Guy Fawkes River National Park
Guy Fawkes River National Park
Guy Fawkes River National Park is on Waterfall Way near Ebor, New South Wales, 50 kilometres west of Dorrigo and 80 km north-east of Armidale in Australia...

 and is part of the Bicentennial National Trail
Bicentennial National Trail
The Bicentennial National Trail , formerly known as the National Horse Trail is the longest marked multi-use trail in the world, stretching 5,330 kilometres from Cooktown, through New South Wales to Healesville, 60 km north-east of Melbourne...



By law, the travelling stock must travel "six miles a day" (approximately 10 kilometres per day). This is to avoid all the roadside grass from being cleared in a particular area by an individual mob. Bores
Water well
A water well is an excavation or structure created in the ground by digging, driving, boring or drilling to access groundwater in underground aquifers. The well water is drawn by an electric submersible pump, a trash pump, a vertical turbine pump, a handpump or a mechanical pump...

, equipped with windmills and troughs, may also be located at regular intervals to provide water in regions where there are no other reliable water sources. A Travelling Stock Reserve is a fenced paddock set aside at strategic distances to allow overnight watering and camping of stock. Reserves may also be located on many roadways that are not the typical wide TSRs.

The travelling stock are driven by a drover
Drover (Australian)
A drover in Australia is a person, typically an experienced stockman, who moves livestock, usually sheep or cattle, "on the hoof" over long distances. Reasons for droving may include: delivering animals to a new owner's property, taking animals to market, or moving animals during a drought in...

 and stockmen using Australian Stock Horse
Australian Stock Horse
The Australian Stock Horse , has been especially bred for Australian conditions. It is a hardy breed of horse noted for endurance, agility and a good temperament. Its ancestry dates to the arrival of the first horses in Australia, brought from Europe, Africa and Asia...

s or vehicle
A vehicle is a device that is designed or used to transport people or cargo. Most often vehicles are manufactured, such as bicycles, cars, motorcycles, trains, ships, boats, and aircraft....

s. Other working animals include working dogs such as Kelpies
Australian Kelpie
The Kelpie is an Australian sheep dog successful at mustering and droving with little or no command guidance. They are medium-sized dogs and come in a variety of colours...

, or their crosses which have been bred for working sheep and cattle. The stockman may also be accompanied by a packhorse
.A packhorse or pack horse refers generally to an equid such as a horse, mule, donkey or pony used for carrying goods on their backs, usually carried in sidebags or panniers. Typically packhorses are used to cross difficult terrain, where the absence of roads prevents the use of wheeled vehicles. ...

, carrying supplies and equipment, or a wagon with supplies might follow the stock. More recently travelling stock has been accompanied by four-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive
Four-wheel drive, 4WD, or 4×4 is a four-wheeled vehicle with a drivetrain that allows all four wheels to receive torque from the engine simultaneously...

 vehicles and mobile homes
Recreational vehicle
Recreational vehicle or RV is, in North America, the usual term for a Motor vehicle or trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home.-Features:...


The purpose of "droving" livestock on such a journey might be to move the stock to different pastures. It was also the only way that most livestock producers had of getting their product to the markets of the towns and cities. The beef cattle were transported to a rail siding or abattoirs "on the hoof". The rigors of the journey, the availability of feed and water and the reliability of those "droving" the stock were all factors in the condition of the livestock when it was slaughtered
Animal slaughter
Slaughter is the term used to describe the killing and butchering of animals, usually for food. Commonly it refers to killing and butchering of domestic livestock ....



An early stock route, the Snowy TSR, was pioneered during the drought of 1828, when the supply of water and fodder failed around Lake George (New South Wales)
Lake George (New South Wales)
Lake George is a lake in south-eastern New South Wales, Australia about 30 minutes drive north-east of Canberra along the Federal Highway en route to Sydney.-Geography / Geology:...

, near Canberra
Canberra is the capital city of Australia. With a population of over 345,000, it is Australia's largest inland city and the eighth-largest city overall. The city is located at the northern end of the Australian Capital Territory , south-west of Sydney, and north-east of Melbourne...

. The local Aboriginals
Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines , also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin ab originem , are people who are indigenous to most of the Australian continentthat is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania...

, realising the plight of the stock, led the stock and their owners into the country now known as Berridale
Berridale, New South Wales
Berridale is a small town of 844 people in New South Wales, and is the administrative centre of the Snowy River Shire, one of Australia's major inland tourism destinations...


Colonial explorers and overlanders pioneered many of the present-day stock routes along corridors that followed river systems, indigenous trade routes and trails. Before the railways were extended cattle were often driven up to 3220 kilometres (2,000.8 mi) on the main stock routes. These early drovers sometimes had to contend with crocodile-infested rivers, drought
Drought in Australia
Drought in Australia is defined as rainfall over a three month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past. This definition takes into account that drought is a relative term and rainfall deficiencies need to be compared to typical rainfall patterns...

s, dust storms, floods, poisonous plants and hostile Aborigine
Australian Aborigines
Australian Aborigines , also called Aboriginal Australians, from the latin ab originem , are people who are indigenous to most of the Australian continentthat is, to mainland Australia and the island of Tasmania...

s. These established routes were recognised and dedicated as roads between the 1860s and 1890s. From the early 1900s the state Governments established a program to develop stock route water facilities throughout the stock route network. Most stock routes now have designated watering points, each located the distance of a droving day apart.

With the establishment of railways in country areas from the 1880s onwards, livestock usually reached the major destinations in cattle trucks. There were stock-yards and livestock ramps at nearly all rural railway stations to facilitate this transportation, meaning that it was only necessary to drove stock to the nearest rail transport
Rail transport
Rail transport is a means of conveyance of passengers and goods by way of wheeled vehicles running on rail tracks. In contrast to road transport, where vehicles merely run on a prepared surface, rail vehicles are also directionally guided by the tracks they run on...

 depot. Travelling stock routes and reserves have generally been administered by Rural Lands Protection Boards, since 1902. There are about 600,000 hectares of travelling stock reserves in NSW and 2.6 million hectares running for 72,000 kilometres across Queensland.

Between 1906 and 1910 Alfred Canning
Alfred Canning
Alfred Wernam Canning was a Western Australian government surveyor. Born at Campbellfield north of Melbourne, he started work in New South Wales as a cadet surveyor and in 1893 joined the Western Australian Department of Lands and Survey.In 1901 a royal commission resulted in Canning being...

 opened up the Canning Stock Route
Canning Stock Route
The Canning Stock Route is one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs to Halls Creek from Wiluna, both in Western Australia. With a total distance of around it is also the longest historic stock route in the world...

, one of the most famous overland routes in the world.

During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 good highways were constructed in the Northern Territory
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory is a federal territory of Australia, occupying much of the centre of the mainland continent, as well as the central northern regions...

 where the railway had not been extended. After the war the road transport of cattle proved very successful with trucks carrying 80 head of fat cattle on each trip. Droving though, was continued until well into the 1950s as these units required sealed roads. From about 1980 the road transport of livestock by road train
Road train
A road train or roadtrain is a trucking concept used in remote areas of Argentina, Australia, Mexico, the United States and Canada to move freight efficiently. The term "road train" is most often used in Australia. In the U.S. and Canada the terms "triples," "turnpike doubles" and "Rocky Mountain...

s became increasingly common and has virtually replaced the transport of stock either by foot or by rail.

But the days of the travelling stock route are not past. In times of extreme drought
Drought in Australia
Drought in Australia is defined as rainfall over a three month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past. This definition takes into account that drought is a relative term and rainfall deficiencies need to be compared to typical rainfall patterns...

, when paddocks lack feed and/or water, stockowners have been forced to reduce their livestock numbers radically or take the remaining beasts to travel their six miles a day, along the stock routes, surviving on the roadside grass. Uses of Travelling Stock Reserves include emergency refuge during floods and drought, as well as some local agistment. Today, TSRs are valued as corridors for native vegetation ecosystems and providing a habitat for flora and fauna.
During 1997, 125 head of cattle died after eating Kalanchoe delagoensis
Kalanchoe delagoensis
Kalanchoe delagoensis is a succulent plant native to Madagascar. In common with the other members of the Bryophyllum section of the genus Kalanchoe, K. delagoensis is notable for vegetatively growing small plantlets on the fringes of its leaves, leading to its common names of mother of thousands...

(mother-of-millions) on a travelling stock reserve near Moree, New South Wales
Moree, New South Wales
Moree is a large town in Moree Plains Shire in northern New South Wales, Australia. It is located on the banks of the Mehi River in the centre of the rich black-soil plains....


Notable Travelling Stock routes

The Strzelecki Track
Strzelecki Track
The Strzelecki Track is an outback track in South Australia, mostly unsealed but with a few short sealed sections to facilitate overtaking, linking Innamincka to Lyndhurst...

, from Lyndhurst
Lyndhurst, South Australia
Lyndhurst, sometimes misspelt Lyndthurst, is a town in north-east South Australia which is at the crossroads of the Strzelecki Track and the Oodnadatta Track. It began as a railway siding in 1878.-History:...

 in the south to Innamincka, South Australia
Innamincka, South Australia
Innamincka is a tiny settlement in north-east South Australia. It is 1065 km northeast of Adelaide and 459 km from Lyndhurst up the Strzelecki Track. It is situated on the banks of Cooper Creek in the state's Channel Country, and surrounded by the Strzelecki, Tirari and Sturt Stony...

 and beyond in the north used to be one of the driest and loneliest tracks to transport mobs of fat cattle to the Adelaide market. It was Captain Starlight, of Robbery Under Arms
Robbery Under Arms
Robbery Under Arms is a classic Australian novel by Rolf Boldrewood . It was first published in serialised form by The Sydney Mail between July 1882 and August 1883, then in three volumes in London in 1888...

 fame, who gave the track notoriety. In 1870 Henry Arthur Readford, better known as Harry Redford
Harry Redford
Henry Arthur "Harry" Readford was a well known Australian cattle thief or cattle 'duffer'. It is widely believed that the Captain Starlight character in Rolf Boldrewood's novel Robbery Under Arms was based on Readford as Readford's 1870 cattle drive was a major story arc in the book.Readford was...

, or Starlight, drove a thousand head of stolen cattle from Queensland, down the Barcoo
Barcoo River
The Barcoo River in western Queensland, Australia that rises on the northern slopes of the Warrego Range, flows in a south westerly direction and unites with the Thomson River to form Cooper Creek. The first European to see the river was Thomas Mitchell in 1846, who named it Victoria Stream...

 and Cooper
Cooper Creek
Cooper Creek is one of the most famous and yet least visited rivers in Australia. It is sometimes known as the Barcoo River from one of its tributaries and is one of three major Queensland river systems that flow into the Lake Eyre Basin...

 past Mount Hopeless
Mount Hopeless (South Australia)
Mount Hopeless is in the Flinders Ranges in South Australia, south-west of Lake Blanche. It is little more than a stony rise of 127 metres. It was over-named by the explorer Edward Eyre....

, to Blanchewater where he sold them for $10,000. Although he was caught and went on trial for his crime, he was found not guilty by a jury largely impressed with his audacious feat of blazing a new cattle stock route, making him one of the greatest drovers in Australian history.

The Murranji Track, also known as the Ghost Road of the Drovers, was pioneered by the famous overlander Nathaniel Buchanan
Nathaniel Buchanan
Nathaniel Buchanan was an Australian pioneer pastoralist, drover and explorer.-Early life:Buchanan was born near Dublin, and was of Scottish descent the son of Lieutenant Charles Henry Buchanan, and his wife Annie, née White...

 in 1881, when he drove large mobs of cattle along it. When Buchanan travelled the Murranji Track the Murranji Waterhole was one of the vital sources of water. If it was dry the cattle and horses faced a 110 mile ‘dry stage’ before reaching the next water. This route was considered the worst stock route of all. In one horrendous trip across this Track in 1905 one man died, all but two stockmen deserted the drover, 800 cattle and 11 horses died.
Evidence has been found that five or six persons definitely died around the Murranji Waterhole and about 12 on the whole track, while trying to negotiate it.
The Birdsville Track
Birdsville Track
The Birdsville Track is a notable outback road in Australia. The 517 km track runs from Marree, a small town in northern South Australia, north across the Tirari Desert and Sturt Stony Desert, ending in Birdsville in south western Queensland....

, is also a notorious stock route. The 520 km Birdsville Track was developed in the 1880s and runs across desert in some seasons, from Birdsville, Queensland
Birdsville, Queensland
-External links:*...

 to Marree
Marree, South Australia
Marree is a small town located in the north of South Australia. It lies North of Adelaide at the junction of the Oodnadatta Track and the Birdsville Track, above sea level. The area is the home of the Dieri people. At the 2006 census, Marree had a population of 70.The town was home to Australia's...

 just north of the Flinders Ranges
Flinders Ranges
Flinders Ranges is the largest mountain range in South Australia, which starts approximately north west of Adelaide. The discontinuous ranges stretch for over from Port Pirie to Lake Callabonna...

 in South Australia. The remote track skirts the Simpson Desert
Simpson Desert
The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry, red sandy plain and dunes in Northern Territory, South Australia and Queensland in central Australia. It is the fourth largest Australian desert, with an area of 176,500 km² ....

 and the Sturt Stony Desert and drovers relied on government provided artesian bores to water their stock along the route. On several occasions during the early years there were big losses of stock on this route. In 1901 Jack Clarke left Warenda Station, Queensland with 500 fat bullocks but only had 72 when he reached Marree. Stock is now transported on trucks and the track is mostly used by tourists.

The Canning Stock Route
Canning Stock Route
The Canning Stock Route is one of the toughest and most remote tracks in the world. It runs to Halls Creek from Wiluna, both in Western Australia. With a total distance of around it is also the longest historic stock route in the world...

 was regarded as the loneliest and one of the most difficult routes. Crossing the Great Sandy Desert
Great Sandy Desert
The Great Sandy Desert is a desert located in the North West of Western Australia straddling the Pilbara and southern Kimberley regions. It is the second largest desert in Australia after the Great Victoria Desert and encompasses an area of...

, the Little Sandy Desert
Little Sandy Desert
The Little Sandy Desert is a desert located in Western Australia south of the Great Sandy Desert and west of the Gibson Desert. It is to the east of Great Northern Highway south of Newman and approximately 200 kilometres north of Wiluna...

 and large portions of the Gibson Desert
Gibson Desert
The Gibson Desert covers a large dry area in the state of Western Australia and is still largely in an almost "pristine" state. It is about in size, making it the 5th largest desert in Australia, after the Great Sandy, Great Victoria, Tanami and Simpson deserts.-Location and description:The Gibson...

, it is almost 2,000 km long. It is a place of living history - the longest heritage trail in Australia. A series of wells, first dug in 1906 by a party under the leadership of surveyor, Alfred Werman Canning
Alfred Canning
Alfred Wernam Canning was a Western Australian government surveyor. Born at Campbellfield north of Melbourne, he started work in New South Wales as a cadet surveyor and in 1893 joined the Western Australian Department of Lands and Survey.In 1901 a royal commission resulted in Canning being...

, connect the stock route. These wells are generally situated on or near old native soaks. Several drovers have been speared on this route by hostile Aboriginal tribes.

The Tanami Road or Tanami Track follows a cattle droving
Droving is the practice of moving livestock over large distances by walking them "on the hoof".Droving stock to market, usually on foot and often with the aid of dogs, has a very long history in the old world...

 route northwest from the MacDonnell Ranges
MacDonnell Ranges
The MacDonnell Ranges of the Northern Territory, are a long series of mountain ranges located in the centre of Australia , and consist of parallel ridges running to the east and west of Alice Springs...

 just north of Alice Springs
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Alice Springs is the second largest town in the Northern Territory of Australia. Popularly known as "the Alice" or simply "Alice", Alice Springs is situated in the geographic centre of Australia near the southern border of the Northern Territory...

 to Halls Creek
Halls Creek, Western Australia
Halls Creek is a small town situated in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. It is located between the towns of Fitzroy Crossing and Turkey Creek on the Great Northern Highway...


The Barkly Stock Route in the Northern Territory was also pioneered by Nat Buchanan and known for the epic cattle drives of the past that passed through the area en route to Queensland. Today this is a road known as the Overlander’s Way (Barkly Highway
Barkly Highway
The Barkly Highway is a national highway of both Queensland and the Northern Territory.-Description:It runs westward from Cloncurry and the junctions of the Flinders and Landsborough highways to the junction with the Stuart Highway north of Tennant Creek...

) and is used by great road trains and visitors.

The Cobb Highway
Cobb Highway
The Cobb Highway is a State highway in western New South Wales, Australia.  From north to south the Cobb Highway begins at its junction with the Barrier Highway near Wilcannia and runs south through the townships of Ivanhoe, Booligal, Hay and Deniliquin.  It ends at Moama where the...

 is part of a very significant Travelling Stock Routes network that traverses New South Wales. The Bradfield Highway
Bradfield Highway, Sydney
The Bradfield Highway is a highway in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia. At 2.4 km long it is one of the shortest highways in Australia....

, which passes over the Sydney Harbour Bridge
Sydney Harbour Bridge
The Sydney Harbour Bridge is a steel through arch bridge across Sydney Harbour that carries rail, vehicular, bicycle and pedestrian traffic between the Sydney central business district and the North Shore. The dramatic view of the bridge, the harbour, and the nearby Sydney Opera House is an iconic...

 is a designated Travelling Stock Route.

Current situation

Although their original transport purpose has been mostly superseded, stock routes also sustain non-pastoral industries, including bee keeping, forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

, fossicking
Fossicking is a term found in Cornwall, Australia and New Zealand referring to prospecting, especially in more recent times, when carried out as a recreational activity. This can be for gold, precious stones, fossils, etc. by sifting through a prospective area. In Australian English and New...

, mineral exploration and quarry
A quarry is a type of open-pit mine from which rock or minerals are extracted. Quarries are generally used for extracting building materials, such as dimension stone, construction aggregate, riprap, sand, and gravel. They are often collocated with concrete and asphalt plants due to the requirement...


Travelling stock routes also provide crucial habitat and connectivity for many endangered species and ecosystem
An ecosystem is a biological environment consisting of all the organisms living in a particular area, as well as all the nonliving , physical components of the environment with which the organisms interact, such as air, soil, water and sunlight....

s. Their length and density mean that they provide a comprehensive sample of the landscape and biodiversity of eastern Australia. Most predate the late Victorian gazetting of conservation reserves
National park
A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently A national park is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or...

, and thus provide substantial protection to highly-cleared ecosystems that were targeted for agricultural clearing in the preceding colonial period, and are therefore under-represented in the national park system (e.g., the flat land west of the Great Dividing Range
Great Dividing Range
The Great Dividing Range, or the Eastern Highlands, is Australia's most substantial mountain range and the third longest in the world. The range stretches more than 3,500 km from Dauan Island off the northeastern tip of Queensland, running the entire length of the eastern coastline through...

). The entire network is publicly owned, and therefore represents the best remaining opportunity for conservationists to protect large amounts of threatened biodiversity. Further, the Travelling Stock Routes provide a serendipitous solution to the problem of biodiversity connectivity in the face of climate change. As temperature and rainfall patterns begin to change, the stock routes represent a set of corridors that organisms can safely transverse to reach appropriate climatic conditions.

A recent government review has recommended the Rural Lands Protection Board no longer manage the stock routes and “that travelling stock routes should be ceded back to the Department of Lands unless the local boards can provide a business case for their retention, which means they have to be profitable.” A group of more than 450 scientists recently petitioned the Premiers of New South Wales
New South Wales
New South Wales is a state of :Australia, located in the east of the country. It is bordered by Queensland, Victoria and South Australia to the north, south and west respectively. To the east, the state is bordered by the Tasman Sea, which forms part of the Pacific Ocean. New South Wales...

 and Queensland
Queensland is a state of Australia, occupying the north-eastern section of the mainland continent. It is bordered by the Northern Territory, South Australia and New South Wales to the west, south-west and south respectively. To the east, Queensland is bordered by the Coral Sea and Pacific Ocean...

, asking them to intervene, to protect both the heritage and environmental values represented by the stock routes (the “Long Paddock Statement”).

The Stock Routes Coalition is a group of organisations who have come together to have the NSW and Queensland Stock Routes declared ‘Protected Corridors for Travelling Stock and Biodiversity’, managed by the current managers and adequately resourced with supplements from public funds. It is a unique grouping of conservation organisations, scientists and drovers.
  • Applied Environmental Decision Analysis (UQ)
  • Birds Australia (BANQ , BAC, BASQ, BANN, BASNA)
  • Bird Observation & Conservation Australia (BrisBOCA)
  • Birds Queensland
  • Chinchilla Field Naturalists Club
  • Citizens Wildlife Corridors Armidale
  • Droving and Stock Routes Association
  • North Burnett Landcare
  • National Parks Association of NSW
  • National Parks Association of Qld
  • Nature Conservation Council of NSW
  • Qld Naturalists Club
  • Ravensbourne and District Landcare
  • South West NRM Ltd
  • Tamworth Birdwatchers
  • Toowoomba Field Naturalists Club
  • Wildlife Preservation Society of Australia
  • Wildlife Preservation Society of Qld
  • WWF- Australia

In January 2009 Travelling Stock Routes came under the control of the new Livestock Health and Pest Authorities (LHPA) which replaced the Rural Lands Protection Board. The new LHPA has stated "that TSRs to be ceded back to the Department of Lands where they place an unreasonable financial burden on authoriies (latter part of 2009)".

Other roadside grazing

Shire councils often permit livestock to graze a designated stretch along a rural road during times of drought. A fee is paid to the council on a per head of livestock basis and the stock owner is permitted to use the selected strip to the exclusion of others.

In Australia many thousands of kilometres of roads are unfenced and this includes some highways. These roads usually pass through forests or private property.

See also

  • Drought in Australia
    Drought in Australia
    Drought in Australia is defined as rainfall over a three month period being in the lowest decile of what has been recorded for that region in the past. This definition takes into account that drought is a relative term and rainfall deficiencies need to be compared to typical rainfall patterns...

  • Drovers' road
  • Long acre (road verge)
  • Barwon Highway
    Barwon Highway
    The Barwon Highway is one of the more obscure state highways of Queensland. It joins the Leichhardt Highway a few kilometres north of Goondiwindi and travels west for a couple of hundred kilometres until it reaches the Carnarvon Highway at Nindigully, 44 kilometres south of St George, and then...

External links

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