Disclaimer: Like all languages, terms and phrases used in the pastoral industry are constantly evolving. Below are a few of the more common terms in use today. There are regional differences with some terms, so some definitions below may differ depending on where you are located.
A special thank you to Anne Marie Huey of Dampier Downs Station for helping put this glossary together.
Definitions marked with a * have been supplied from the Kent Saddlery website.
1080* A poison for wild dog control.
Avgas Aviation gasoline.
Bang-tail To ‘bang-tail’ is to cut the tail hair past the bone so we know that cattle has been processed.
Big Smoke* City.
Billy* A tin used over a campfire to boil water for tea. See also “Boil the billy”.
B&S Ball Bachelor and Spinsters Ball. Originally they were a way for people living in the country to meet potential spouses, but these days they’re a chance to let loose and catch up with mates.
Blocking cattle up* Generally refers to mustering on horseback when the cattle are first approached. They are usually held in one spot for a time until they have quietened down enough to move forward.
Blowie* A blow fly – a large fly that lays maggots making meat rotten.
Bodgy (or Dodgy)* Poor quality. “It’s a bit bodgy” – it might fall to bits.
Bogey (v.) To have a shower – usually in a dam or under a pipe from a bore.
Boil the billy* “Let’s have a break for a cup of tea or coffee.” Often used even when the water is boiled with an electric jug. See “Billy” above.
Bore Runner* A person who drives around the station usually 2 or 3 times a week checking the water for the cattle. The water can be in dams or natural waterholes but it is often underground water which needs to be pumped by a windmill, solar or diesel motor. Some underground water flows to the surface without pumping.
Breaker Young horse that has been recently broken in and is still in the early stages of its education.
Bronco (Bronco Branding Broncoing)* The traditional Australian method of branding calves. The Calves are caught by throwing a lassoo from the back of a strong horse. The calf is then pulled up to a timber panel for branding. This method of branding calves is not often used anymore but it’s become a popular sport.
Bronco Panel* A timber fence like structure for restraining calves while they are being branded using the broncoing method.
Bronco Yards* Yards to contain cattle while Bronco branding.
Bullock Castrated adult male.
Bull buggy/ catcher /wagon Mustering vehicle
Bull dust Fine dirt on roads when there has been too much traffic.
Bull strap A heavy duty belt meant for tying wild cattle legs with.
Bush (v.) To ‘bush’ cattle is to let them go from the cattle yards, back into the bush.
Bush* Has different meanings depending on where you are. If in town, “going to the bush” might mean heading out of town, or if in the city, going to a small country town. To people in city regions “the bush” could refer to the outback. When in the country, “going up the bush” could mean going to an area where there are lots of trees and wildlife, and “going bush” could mean going out where there are no other people, maybe to do fencing or go fishing. Going bush could mean someone wanting to get away from other people.
Bush telegraph* The exchange of information by word of mouth. “I heard it on the bush telegraph”, just like “I heard it on the grapevine”.
Calfwit A young animal that is going through the yards for the first time, demonstrating naivety and inexperience in a situation with which they will eventually become familiar. A person can be a calfwit when they behave like a calf e.g. displaying no brains… “What are you doing, you calfwit?”
Camp (v.) A sleep.
Camp (n.) A place that is set up for eating, sleeping, bathing; eg Drover’s camp.
Campdraft A horse sport involving cattle.
Cattle camp Where cattle rest frequently.
Chopper* Helicopter; usually used for mustering cattle.
Cleanskin A mature animal that has not been branded, earmarked or carries any other identifying marks.
Coacher muster A method of mustering where cattle are brought into a mob with other animals then walked to the yards using horse, bikes or vehicles.
Cobb&Co Pronounced “cobbncoe”. A particular method of using wire to hold something together.
Cockie* Farmer. Also slang for cockatoo and cockroach. See also “Cockie Gate”.
Cocky gate A gate constructed of barbed wire and pickets – excellent for entangling inexperienced and unsuspecting jackaroos and jillaroos.
Cooler A wire yard used to hold cattle for short periods of time, for example, before trucking or processing.
Cowboy Traditionally used to describe an ex-ringer who, for age or some other reason, is no longer able to perform standard station duties. Cowboys were often employed to perform odd jobs around the homestead such as gardening, hence the term cowboy gardener (as they were sometimes called). Today ‘cowboy’ is commonly used to describe competitors in rodeo events, but should never be used to describe a jackaroo or ringer.
Cradle A restrained box designed to hold calves and weaners for management procedures such as branding, castrating, ear marking and dehorning. Similar in concept to a crush, but has the added ability to lay an animal on its side.
Crossbreed fender saddle* The style of saddle which is used almost exclusively on cattle stations. The crossbreed refers tot he combination of the Australian knee pads, seat and cantle and the American style panels and lining.
Cruisie* Taking it easy, “A cruisie job” – an easy job or affirmative “Cruisie”- that will be fine, cool.
Crush A restraint box used to hold large animals in order for management procedures such as vaccinations, pregnancy testing and ear-tagging to be conducted.
Cuppa* A cup of tea or coffee. “Lets have a cuppa” – to have a break for a cup of tea. See also “Smoko”.
“Doin’ 90” Going really fast on your horse – “I was chasing that cow, doing 90”.
Dolly A tool used to drive steel pickets into the ground. It is usually a piece of steel or cast iron piping with two handles. The pipe is placed over the picket and moved up and down to drive the picket into the ground.
Donkey* Usually a drum of water with a fire underneath stoked up when hot water is needed for showers.
Draft To sort cattle into different groups – this may be based on age, gender, breed etc.
Dry cows Cows from which the calves have been weaned, or may not have had a calf last season, and are not producing milk.
ESCAS Export Supply Chain Assurance Scheme – government regulations that ensure Australian animals can be traced throughout the entire live-export chain, from property of origin to point of slaughter.
Fats* Fat cattle ready to be sold for slaughter, can be either bullocks or cows.
Float(v.) A word often used when outback people are ready to go somewhere, “Let’s float”, or have gone, “He’s floated”. They could be going out to the stock camp, going to a rodeo or changing jobs.
Flood gate A length of fencing across a river, creek or gully that often gets washed away when there’s a flood. This fence is then usually mended over and over again to keep it stock proof.
Fresh horse* A horse that hasn’t been used for a while.
Head bale Part of the crush designed to hold an animal’s head during management procedures such as ear-tagging and tipping. It usually consists of two sliding panels that catch the animal behind the ears.
Heifer Young female cattle.
Hobble* To join the front legs of a horse with two straps and a swivel chain (usually at night) to stop them going too far from camp.
Holding the cut / cutting* When cattle are drafted on horseback it is often refered to as cutting and the cattle that have been separated from the mob are called the cut.
Horse plant (or just ‘plant’)* The group of work horses kept ready for work at any time; either “hobbled” (see previous entry) out at night or kept in a small paddock. The group of horses in use by the stock camp at any one time. See also “horse tailer” below.
Humbugging(v.) Teasing, pestering.
Jackaroo Traditionally a young station hand destined for management. Today, the term is commonly used to describe any relatively inexperienced male station hand.
Jillaroo Female version of a jackaroo.
Killer A beast designated to be killed and consumed on the station
Lick Mineral supplement fed to animals to improve diet quality.
Long paddock Stock routes or road reserves used for tailing out cattle in dry times.
Maiden/joiner heifers Heifers that are old enough to go to the bull for the first time.
Mickey A young, uncastrated male animal.
Mob* A of cattle, horses or sheep running or mustered together. Can also be a description of a family or station grouping, eg “the Humbert River mob”. Can be used to describe a large number of just about anything, eg “the biggest mob of beer”.
Monkey Strap A laced handle on the front of the saddle.
“More beef!” A way of letting people working the yard that more cattle need to be brought up the race.
Mothering up* Calves are often separated from their mothers during mustering and processing through the yards. Before the cattle are let go they are held together to allow the cow and calf to find each other.
Muster* Round up sheep or cattle. Noun – “this year’s muster”, or verb – “we’ll muster them in”.
NLIS National Livestock Identification System – an electronic identification device that allows animals to be traced throughout the supply chain. The most common form is an ear tag, but can also be in the form of a rumen bolus.
Offsider* Assistant. Usually younger or less experienced.
Ol’ Mate A person you may or may not know. Even if their role in the story is important, their identity isn’t.
Pads Cattle tracks
Poddy An orphaned or abandoned calf usually being hand-reared.
Portable panels Fencing that can be easily assembled, disassembled and moved as necessary (similar to the fencing put up at music festivals).
PTE Pregnancy tested empty; ie not in calf.
PTIC Pregnancy Tested In Calf
Race A narrow ‘laneway’ within the yards, usually leading to the crush or calf cradle, that only allows the passage of one animal at a time.
Ringer A skilled and experienced male or female station hand. These days it’s considered an old-fashioned term.
Rollie/ roley* A self rolled cigarette.
Roo An unskilled jackaroo.
Round / A round* “Mustering” all the cattle on the station; mostly done twice in each season in a first and second round.
Sale cattle Cattle that are sold throughout the mustering season.
Scrubber Similar to a cleanskin, usually with a bad attitude.
Smoko* A break for a smoke or a cup of tea or coffee.
Snake bite kit Beers for the afternoon after knock off.
Stack hat Helmet.
Steer Castrated young male animal.
Tail Position at the back of the mob being mustered.
Tilly A Ute.
Townies Tailor made smokes.
Tucker box Esky or container used to carry food for the day.
Turkey nest An earthen tank used to store water.
Water point General term for a place where the cattle drink. This could be a trough, turkeys nest, natural spring dam, river or creek.
Weaner A young animal that has been removed from its mother (weaned).
Wet cows Cows that are still mothering their calves and are producing milk.
Whoa boy An earthen mound crossing a road or fence-line that looks a bit like a speed bump. However, its true purpose is to slow down water flow during the wet and prevent erosion.
Wing Two funnel-shaped fence-lines strung with shade cloth that guide cattle into the yard.
Yarded* “The cattle have been yarded” – put in the yard.
Do you have something to add to this list? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions!