A list of terms commonly used on Australian cattle stations. Sayings vary from place to place and originate from all over Australia.
1080 – A poison for wild dog control.
Big Smoke – city.
Billy – a tin used over a campfire to boil water for tea. See also “Boil the billy”.
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.
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.
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 – A castrated male cow
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”.
Camp – “I’m going to have a camp,” meaning a rest. Also another name for stock camp or fencer’s camp, etc.
Chopper – Helicopter; usually used for mustering cattle.
Clean skin – an unbranded and unearmarked heifer, cow or bull.
Cockie – Farmer. Also slang for cockatoo and cockroach. See also “Cockie Gate”.
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.
Cuppa – a cup of tea or coffee. “Lets have a cuppa” – to have a break for a cup of tea. See also “Smoko”.
Dodgy (or Bodgy) – poor quality. “It’s a bit dodgy” – it might fall to bits.
Donkey – Usually a drum of water with a fire underneath stoked up when hot water is needed for showers.
Draft / Drafting – Usually refers to separating cattle into different catorgories for branding, trucking or treating. Can be done on horseback or in a yard.
Drafting – Can also refer to the sport of campdrafting.
Fats – fat cattle ready to be sold for slaughter, can be either bullocks or cows.
Float – 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.
Fresh horse – a horse that hasn’t been used for a while.
Gates – some of the different names for gates common in the country, usually made from wire and wooden posts or stakes and having a wide range of styles of latches.
Cockie Gate (see also “Cockie”)
5 minute gate (5 minutes to make and 5 minutes to open)
COD Gate (Carry or Drag)
Gibber Plains – Open plain country with not much grass cover and small rocks lying on top of the ground.
Greenhide – Untreated cowhide which was used traditionally for making ropes, halters, bridles, pack bags as well as many other station uses.
Green horse – a horse, broken in but with not much training or experience.
Green Ringer – inexperienced station hand
Hang up – ride a bucking horse without getting thrown off, “he can hang up”.
Have a blow – have a rest.
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.
Horse tailer – the person who looks after the plant horses (see previous entry) while mustering or droving. See also “Tailing”.
Humbug – an annoying person.
Humbugging – teasing, pestering.
Hung up – to come off a horse and have your foot caught in the stirrup iron (oxbow) and get dragged along. (Not to be confused with Hang up)
Inside – closely settled region – an old time saying to distinguish areas which are closely settled from the sparsely settled frontier country, or outside (a word which changed over time to outback).
Jackeroos and Jillaroos – Usually young station workers who in times past often lived and ate separately from station hands, but all worked together. Even though we still see ads for jackeroos and jilleroos, young people much prefer to be called “ringers”.
Killer – one of the stock to be slaughtered for eating on the property.
Knock it off – stop that nonsense or to steal something.
Knock off – finish work for the day – “I’m going to knock off now”.
Knock off time – “When is knock off time?” – when will we finish work for today?
Micky bull – a young bull, usually up to about 18 months of age, which should have been branded and castrated but has been missed in previous musters.
Mob – group 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”.
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”.
No drama or No worries – forget about it (in forgiveness) or Yes, I’ll do it (it will be no problem). See also “Too easy”.
Offsider – assistant. Usually younger or less experienced.
Outback – originated in a time when closely settled regions were referred to as inside and the sparsely settled frontier country was referred to as outside. The word outside changed over time to outback. “The Outback” has now become a tourism catchphrase to describe the sparsely populated central, western and northern regions of Australia. It is not a specific place, more a description, a bit like calling Australia “Down Under”.
Paddock – fenced area.
Piss holes – A small water hole.
Plant – see “Horse plant”.
Reckon – “Do ya reckon?” = Do you think so? or “I reckon!” = I agree wholeheartedly, or “I reckon it will rain tonight” = I think it’s going to rain tonight.
Ringer – a male or female stock worker on an Australian cattle station, so named from rounding up “mobs” of cattle. See our Working as a Ringer article.
Ringing – A term for someone who is a ringer eg I’ve spent the last 10 years ringing in the Northern Territory.
Rollie – a self rolled cigarette.
Roo – Slang for “jackeroo” or “jilleroo”. A term often used for a person who is inexperienced or meaning that the person is not very skilled. Also short for kangaroo.
Round / A round – “Mustering” all the cattle on the station; mostly done twice in each season in a first and second round.
Saddle Bronc – The sport at a rodeo in which a rider attempts to ride a horse that in inclined to buck.
Scuffling crops – Small crops were traditionally cultivated using a draft horse pulling a tyne like implement.
Smoko – a break for a smoke or a cup of tea or coffee. See also “Cuppa”.
Stock Camp – See our Cattle Stations page for an explanation of the term “Stock Camp”.
Surcingle – A leather strap used to secure a riding or pack saddle onto a horse. The surcingle goes around the saddle and horse.
Tailing – to contain a “mob” of cattle or horses while they graze. For example:
- tailing cows and calves – to mother up;
- tailing the mob – they may have been in the yards and need a feed.
- tailing the “plant horses” while mustering or droving.
- tailing weaners (see “weaners”) – to quieten, feed and educate them while they are adjusting to being taken from their mothers.
Too easy – similar to “No drama” or “No worries” = I’ll do it, it will cause no problems.
Town smokes (sometimes called “townies”) – taylor made cigarettes. Called town smokes because station workers often only smoke them when in town as a bit of a luxury. When out on the station they would mostly smoke “rollies”.
Tucker – food. See also “tucker box”.
Tucker box – food box. See also “tucker”.
Turkey nest – A circular earth tank built above ground which has water pumped into it from a bore or water hole or dam. The water in the turkeys nest gravety feeds to troughs for cattle or sheep to drink.
Vesty – An English company owned by Lord Vesty that owned many cattle stations in the north of Australia during the 20th century.
Weaners – young steers or heifers, usually six to eight months old, recently weaned from their mothers.
Yard – a structure used to hold and process cattle. See also “yarded” below.
Yarded – “the cattle have been yarded” – put in the yard (see previous entry).
Do you have terms to add? Please send us an email.