The Grandaddy Of Australian Horse Racers

This Melbourne cup, meet Sir Hercules, but don’t bet on him.

It's that time of year again when people put their sense of reason to one side and overdress and overindulge in a bid to celebrate the race that stops the nation.

Its Melbourne Cup time.

And while there are many different horses running the race, most of the top race horses in Australia can be traced back to one distinguished father horse. The aptly named ‘Sir Hercules.’

Sir Hercules was bred in 1843 at Clifton Stud on the Hawkesbury River, NSW. He was never a racehorse, however he sired a grand total of 18 of the biggest race winning horses.

He was the father of famous Australian winners, including The Bar, winner of Melbourne Cup in 1886, and Yattendon, winner of the first Sydney Cup. Further to this, the very top racers and stallions, Chester, Grand Flaneur and Abercorn were all descended of Sir Hercules.

When Sir Hercules died in 1865 at a stud near Bathurst, his skeleton was exhumed and presented to the Australian Museum.

In 1873 he was put on display in the Australian Museum's Skeleton Collection. For more than 100 years he has been in a rearing position and can still be seen today in the museum's newly refurbished main gallery.

The skeleton, which has been dubbed ‘The Bone Ranger’ by both the Museum Staff and vsitors alike, represents the unique relationship Australia has had with its horses.

Throughout Australian history horses have played a vital role in farming, industry, exploration and warfare. They have been immortalised in poems like Banjo Patterson’s ‘The Man From Snowy River’; immortalised in history in the last major cavalry charge in modern warfare with the Light Horse’s courageous charge of the Turkish guns at Beersheba; and some are immortalised in the tapestry of Australian culture like Phar Lap, the Great Depression era horse with a big heart - and that, like many Aussie legends, even originated in New Zealand.

Sir Hercules, our Aussie war horses, Phar Lap and even the horses racing today are as much apart of Australian history as the men and women who ride them. 

Lead Image: Australian Museum, Photo by Stuart Humphries. 


Related Articles

Discuss this article


Never miss a Nat Geo moment

Your email address
We use our own and third-party cookies to improve our services, personalise your advertising and remember your preferences. If you continue browsing, or click on the accept button on this banner, we understand that you accept the use of cookies on our website. For more information visit our Cookies Policy AcceptClose cookie policy overlay