A north Queensland grazing family could be about to hold the first ever campdraft featuring North American bison.
Campdrafting is an Australian sport that traditionally involves a horse and rider working a mob of cattle.
So horses could be a little confused when they encounter the beasts – which look like buffalo – for the first time.
Vicki Miller of Grass Hut Station and Horse Stud near Mingela says she uses her 11 bison in campdrafting because they’re more resilient than cattle.
“They say that one bison is equal to about 500 head of cattle,” she said
“You only get one or maybe two runs out of a wiener before they start to get sour.
“Once the bison have been trained to do the campdrafting pattern they make you ride in the exact position.
“They’ll just do it over and over and over again in the exact same position and they never get sick of it.”
Vicki says nothing beats a bison when it comes to training horses for campdraft.
“You can train a young horse or an older horse on them,” she said.
“If you’ve got a horse you have a few issues with and you’re not getting the results you want you can check your horse back.
“If you want to give the horse a really fast ride the bison will go as fast as you want him to.”
However, before bison can enter the campdraft arena they need to be trained.
Vicki says that can be a big task.
“They’re a creature of habit so the first time we got them in the arena they got a little fright because we didn’t realise they hadn’t been around horses,” she said.
“One of them tried to jump the arena fence because he’s a really big bison and we was able to get over the top.
“So his friend then thought he could also get over so they both jumped.
“We put some electric tape up around the top… and they never try to jump over anymore.
Despite the advantages of using bison to train horses for campdrafting, Vicky says there are some cost challenges.
“They’re very expensive – it costs around $5000 to $7000 to buy a trained bison,” she said.
“Bison that are not trained are not happy to be around people.
“Buying an untrained bison and expecting it to run in a campdraft would be like catching a brumby and expecting to ride him the first day.
“It just wouldn’t happen.
Grass Hut Station will run a feature bison draft as part of their own campdraft the end of the month.
“It could be the first time they’re used in a competition but I could be wrong,” Vicky said.
“For people who have never chased a bison, their horse might think ‘oh this cow looks a bit different!’
It will probably be a bit of a laugh for the crowd.”
The Grass Hut Campdraft will run from August 23 to 25.
The cut-out competition and the bison feature draft will be held on the Friday evening.