Posted By John
Australian Animals

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Hybernating in Australia

Robin wrote, “We are studying about animals that hybernate. Do Australian bears hybernate like our bears?”

Discovered in the Australian Alps in 1966, the little Mountain Pygmy-possum (Burramys parvus) is the only Australian marsupial that hybernates. They are also the only mammal to live exclusively in alpine and sub-alpine areas of Australia where there is a continuous period of snow cover.

The total population is estimated to be less than 3,000. This is due to loss of habitat in Victoria and New South Wales ski areas.

The Mountain Pygmy-possum weighs only 45 grams and easily fits into the palm of your hand. The Healesville Sanctuary has a research and breeding program to help avoid the probabilty of extinction. An excellent article about this animal is at Australian Department of the Environment.

The Australian Shepherd
Is NOT an Aussie

Jeni from Oregon, USA wrote to us and asked if “dinki di” is pronounced “dinkee-dee” or “dinkee-die”. It’s “dinkee-die”.

It seems she wanted to name her Australian Shepherd Dinki Di, but didn’t know how to say it.

She’s got a bigger problem. An Australian Shepherd is NOT Australian. She’s not alone in that completely understandable, but wrong, assumption.

Blue Merle considered Aussie?

No one knows exactly why this herding breed acquired the name Australian. It may be because so many dogs brought to the American West from Australia in the late 1800s had blue merle coats (mottled patchwork of grey and black).

As a result it’s possible that the word Australian was associated with dogs of that coat colour.

Ghost-eye dog

What’s most noticeable about blue merle dogs is the their eyes. They can have two different coloured eyes, most notably blue eyes. They can even have bicoloured eyes where an eye is half-brown and half-blue.

As you can see, their appearance would certainly stand out from the traditional herding sheepdogs. In fact, it is said that they were called the “ghost-eye dog”.

How did they get to Australia?

It’s believed that the blue merle sheepdog arrived in Australia in the early 1800s with the German immigrants who came to care for the imported Spanish Merino sheep.

The American breeders

The Australian Shepherd breed was developed in America from dogs brought in from Spain as well as Australia. It was thought that those climates best matched the American West and so the dogs would do well.

Australian Shepherds come in a variety of colours, (not just blue merle), with traditional colour eyes. But it’s the blue merle we’ll always favour even if it’s not really Aussie.

The ANKC (Australian National Kennel Council) did not officially recognize the breed until 1994.

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Drop Bears

Emilio asked if I was scared of drop bears. Drop bears are not real.

It is a story told to scare tourists for fun. People have made videos and posted photos online. But they are fake, not real. Fun to look at as long as you know it’s a joke.

In case you were wondering, Australia has no native bears. The koala bear is not a bear. It’s real name is koala, not koala bear. No worries. Lots of adults who do not live in Australia call it a koala bear. We call those people tourists.

From the Past – The Last Camel

1873 … A group of explorers led by Peter Egerton Warburton were looking for a crossing from the Overland Telegraph Line in Alice Springs to Perth, WA. Included in his party were 17 camels.

During this trek, which began 15 April 1873, they were constantly forced to head north to search for water. Being low on provisions, they began eating their camels.

On Christmas Day 1873 the expedition ate its last camel. It was probably necessary, but it could not have been a Christmas they would fondly remember.

Update …
Cathy M. thought some people might think Australia didn’t have camels any more. While the Warburton explorers might have eaten their last camel, it certainly wasn’t Australia’s last.

In 1840 the first camels were brought into Australia from the Canary Islands. 26 years later Sir Thomas Elder at Beltana Station, SA setup the first stud operation providing quality breeders for the next 50 years. Imports from India and Palestine, however, continued until 1907 bringing in an estimated 10,000 to 12,000 camels.

The camels brought into Australia were almost exclusively the one-humped camels (Camelus dromedarius) because they are highly suited to the Australian climate. Only a few two-humped camels (Camelus bactrianus) were imported (Two-humped camels are best suited to cold deserts.)

Today camels can be found roaming wild in the interior of Australia. Camel racing occurs in different parts of Australia and there are camel treks for tourists to enjoy.

Camels Australia
Take an Australian tour on the back of a camel.

Steakhouse restaurant serving camel, crocodile, emu, and kangaroo meals.

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