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Birdsville Cup struck by impact of equine flu

In 2007 the annual race meet at Birdsville, Queensland, was cancelled for only the third time in its history, as Australia's first outbreak of the highly contagious equine influenza virus prompted authorities to implement a nationwide ban on the movement of horses.

The Birdsville races were left without any runners, but around 4,000 people still converged on the small town for the highly popular event.

A soft toy horse stuck to a large piece of white card. A beer can with string rolled around it is attached to one end of the card.
‘Jackson’ toy horse, 2007

Mock horse race

Residents responded by organising a range of games and activities, including a mock horse race run down the main road outside the Birdsville Hotel.

'Jackson', owned by Jo Fort, was one of the contestants in the 'Birdsville Cup'. The 'horses' were lined up across the road and raced as the owners pulled them along by winding the rope attached to their cardboard bases around a beer can. After the race, Jackson was displayed for a number of years in the Green Lizard Bar of the Birdsville Hotel.

A sketch of spectators at a horse race.
'Birdsville races, August, 1953’ by Noelle Sandwith

Explore more Spirited: Australia's Horse Story

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