Berridale bison attract too much attention on road to the snow

Larry and Barry attract significant attention from passing Monaro Highway motorists. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos
Larry and Barry attract significant attention from passing Monaro Highway motorists. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

When the ski season starts shortly, Larry and Barry have to be moved out of sight.

Their celebrity status, it seems, is starting to become a little too much for local farmer Scott Gardiner to manage.

The two bison boys of Berridale are traffic stoppers along the Monaro Highway. Their huge bearded heads, enormous shoulders, tiny tails and massive 600kg frames cause gawking motorists to weave and stop unexpectedly for a photo opportunity.

It raises the significant potential for the unusual pair to cause traffic mayhem when the coming ski traffic hits its peak volume. So, for peace of mind, Mr Gardiner is planning to shift them further out on his farm, away from the gaze of the travelling public.

The sight of American bison on Australian farms is rare, although herds and pairings are slowly growing in number in local regional areas.

Although Mr Gardiner runs a sheep and cattle trading business from his 700-acre farm about 11km from Berridale, Larry and Barry are far too highly-prized to be part of that portfolio.

Home on the range ... Berridale campdrafter Scott Gardiner with his training bison, Barry. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

Home on the range ... Berridale campdrafter Scott Gardiner with his training bison, Barry. Picture: Dion Georgopoulos

The value to Mr Gardiner and his wife, Keryn, both keen campdrafters, is in the ability of their bison to train young horses for competition.

"Our bison are basically used as a training tool; it's become quite common for competition now," Mr Gardiner explained.

"Bison are a lot smarter than cattle. They are agile, have a lot of stamina, and they can run very fast, up to 60km/h.

"We've trained Larry and Barry to run certain patterns. Once the bison know the patterns, it really speeds up our training program.

"The bison quickly develop an understanding of what we're doing so it means we can put more work into more horses each day, and over a shorter time.

"It basically means we don't need to keep a large number of cattle on the property at any one time for that purpose."

The Gardiners compete on the regional campdrafting circuit which starts in November and runs through to April. They will take their competition horses as far north as Tamworth and as far south as Gippsland.

North America's largest mammals once numbered in their millions but were almost hunted to extinction in the US during the 1800s until a concerted effort began to revive the population and restore free-ranging herds in places such as Yellowstone National Park.

They have been bred mostly for training purposes in Australia for more than a decade but their rarity means even untrained bison are quite expensive to buy, starting around $3000 each.

"They are costly compared with cattle but if you look at it in perspective, in terms of their advantages over cattle and how few you need to have, it's a no-brainer," Mr Gardiner said.

For those campdrafters who can't afford bison, he said the next best thing was water buffalo.

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This story Meet Larry and Barry, Berridale's traffic-stopping celebrity bison first appeared on The Canberra Times.

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