Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Wild Horse Research Through the Lens of Dr. Chris Pollitt: Brumbies in the Channel Country

The mountain gorillas had Dian Fossey. The coral reefs had Jacques Cousteau. They were researchers who had a job to do and ended up sharing their fascination for endangered wildlife with the world. And the world paid attention.

Today, the wild horses of Australia--known as brumbies--have a researcher in their midst who came to study their feet but is helping the world understand both the vast landscape of the Australian outback and the horses who call that hostile territory their home.

It's not always hostile. A few years ago, water came to the desert-like Channel Country. Canyons filled with water.

Dr Pollitt was there as the leader of the Australian Brumby Research Unit, an outgrowth of the Australian Equine Laminitis Research Unit, both located at the University of Queensland. The Brumbies can claim their first PhD in Dr. Brian Hampson, who studied the feet and behavior of the brumbies for a groundbreaking observation and interpretation of how environment affects horses' feet.

Brian Hampson RIRDC booklet
Click for free download of a 46-page summary of Hampson's thesis

Hampson and Pollitt trekked back and forth to remote regions of inner Australia where they studied the Brumbies, selecting specific environs where ground and moisture would create measurable differences. They even transported horses between the different environments to see how their feet would change.

Pollitt and Hampson may have set out to study hooves but the PhD that Hampson earned and Pollitt documented--at times from a helicopter--are making the world appreciate not just the deep new data on wild horse feet but the sense of place and time that is Outback Australia.

This blog has always said that an interest in horses' feet might take you anywhere. This little video is a window on just how far "anywhere" might turn out to be.

To learn more:
Brian Hampson PhD Thesis Table of Contents (download)
Brumby Research Results: Wild Horses Switched Between Terrain Types in Australia to Observe Transition 

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