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ST Gill printing block

ST Gill printing block

Buck jumping in Bourke Street

This rare woodblock carries an engraving based on an illustration by colonial artist Samuel Thomas Gill. It shows three crack riders demonstrating ‘buck jumping’, a crude form of horse breaking, outside a central Melbourne horse bazaar. The block was used in 1864 to print Gill’s illustration, titled ‘Bourke Street West in the forenoon’, for the Australian News for Home Readers, a British newspaper.

Wooden printing block for ‘Bourke Street West in the Forenoon’ by ST Gill.
Wooden printing block for ‘Bourke Street West in the forenoon’ by ST Gill, 1864. Many woodblocks were burnt after they had been printed as they could not be reused. National Museum of Australia. Photo: George Serras.

Regulations to manage horse numbers

Gill’s illustration reflected growing civic concern in Australia, as horse numbers grew in urban areas. During the second half of the 19th century, authorities began introducing by-laws and other regulations to manage the equine populations.

One law, for example, limited the movement of unbroken horses and cattle in Melbourne to the early hours of the morning. Another, made it illegal for horses (and other livestock) to roam free in the streets, and a third sought to safeguard pedestrians by prohibiting people from riding their horses on the footpath.

‘Bourke Street West in the forenoon’, by ST Gill.
‘Bourke Street West in the forenoon’, by ST Gill, published in the Australian News for Home Readers, 1864. State Library of Victoria.

People and the Environment

Horses in Australia is part of the National Museum's People and the Environment program. Discover more stories about people's relationships with Australia's natural and built environments on our People and the Environment website.