On a gorgeous weekend in Quorn, SA, surrounded by picturesque gum trees and views of the Flinders Ranges, the National Bronco Branding Finals were held on the last weekend in October.

Photos Italo Vardaro

A great crowd of 500 or so were on hand, enjoying the view from the new grandstand of more than 100 competitors in a range of events, including team penning and breakaway roping. Some teams travelled for more than two days to get to the event, coming from Longreach, Mt Isa and Lake Nash. 

Tony Williams, president of Bronco Branding SA, says bronco branding is a sport that is particular to northern SA, the NT and Queensland. “Over 120 years ago it was developed because out in central Australia there were no cattle yards,” he says. “A group of ringers would start mustering and drafting off sale cattle. They caught the calves on the flat and tied them to a tree and branded them. Then they’d let the bush cattle go, and at night they’d watch over the sale cattle.” 

In 1984 RM Williams started the first bronco branding championships in Alice Springs. “All of those skills would have been lost without the competitions,” Tony says.

Today, strict animal welfare protocols are in place for competitors, and the caught animals are branded with paint, not hot irons. In the singles competition, one catcher and three ground crew catch and brand three beasts in less than eight minutes. In the doubles, there are two catchers getting five beasts in the same time. The catchers must throw the rope over the centre line of the horse.

National open singles champion team was B41, from SA, with Bully Booth as catcher, and David May, Chris Reynolds and Bridie Ferguson as ground crew. The doubles event was taken out by five-times winners Mt Barry, also from SA, with David Hunter and Tony himself as catchers, and Matt, Cameron and Damian Williams as ground crew. The novice winners, Ringers from the Wrong End, included South Australian Tom Willoughby as catcher. 

Next year the finals are due to be held in the NT.

This story excerpt is from Issue #140

Outback Magazine: December/January 2022