Bushrangers, or bush rangers, were outlaws in the early years of the European settlement of Australia who had the survival skills necessary to use the Australian bush as a refuge to hide from the authorities.

They were roughly analogous to British "highwaymen" and American "Old West outlaws," and their crimes often included robbing small-town banks or coach services.

The term "bushranger" evolved to refer to those who abandoned social rights and privileges to take up "robbery under arms" as a way of life, using the bush as their base. [cite web |url=http://www.stand-and-deliver.org.uk/bush_rangers.htm |title=AUSTRALIAN BUSH RANGERS |publisher=Stand and Deliver, Highwaymen & Highway Robbery |accessdate=2007-04-16]

The term "bushranger"

The use of the word "bushranger" evolved in Australia in the early 19th Century. The first recorded use of the term was in February 1805, when the Sydney Gazette mentioned that a cart had been stopped by three men "whose appearance sanctioned the suspicion of their being bushrangers". From this time onwards, the term was used to denote criminals who attacked people on the roads or in the bush. John Bigge described bushranging in 1821 as "absconding in the woods and living upon plunder and the robbery of orchards." Charles Darwin likewise recorded in 1835 that a bushranger was "an open villain who subsists by highway robbery, and will sooner be killed than taken alive". [cite encyclopedia
title = Bushranging
encyclopedia =The Australian Encyclopædia
volume =2
pages =582–587
publisher =Australian Geographical Society
edition=5th edn.
date =1988
id =ISBN 1 862760004
] In Tasmania, escaped convicts who became bushrangers were known as "bolters". [" [http://www.australianhistory.org/convict-bolters.php "Australian History: Convict Bolters"] ", 2006. Accessed 16 April, 2007.]


More than 2000 bushrangers are believed to have roamed the Australian countryside, beginning with the convict bolters and drawing to a close after Ned Kelly's last stand at Glenrowan.cite web |url=http://nma.gov.au/shared/libraries/attachments/media/media_kits/outlawed_bushrangers_of_australia/files/684/nma_outlawed_bushrangers.pdf |type=pdf |title=BUSHRANGERS OF AUSTRALIA |accessdate=2007-04-16 |publisher=National Museum of Australia]

1788 to 1840s: convict escapees

Bushranger was originally used to describe predatory escaped convicts fleeing from the early Australian penal colonies. Most turned to stealing supplies from remote settlements and travellers and fencing the stolen goods to other free settlers.

John "Black" Caesar is generally regarded as the first bushranger. He bolted from Sydney Cove several times before being shot dead in 1796.

Bold Jack Donahue is recorded as the last convict bushranger. He was reported in newspapers around 1827 as being responsible for an outbreak of bushranging on the road between Sydney and Windsor. Throughout the 1830s he was regarded as the most notorious bushranger in the colony. cite web |url= http://www.rta.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/index.cgi?action=heritage.show&id=4301011 | title=Old Windsor Road and Windsor Road Heritage Precincts |work=Heritage and conservation register |publisher=New South Wales Roads and Traffic Authority |accessdate= 2007-04-20] Leading a band of escaped convicts, Donahue became central to Australian folklore as the Wild Colonial Boy.

Bushranging was common on the mainland, but Van Diemen's Land produced the most violent and serious outbreaks of convict bushrangers. Hundreds of convicts were at large in the bush, farms were abandoned and martial law was proclaimed. Indigenous outlaw Musquito defied colonial authorities and led attacks on settlers.

1850s: gold rush era

The bushrangers' heyday was the Gold Rush years of the 1850s and 1860s as the discovery of gold gave bushrangers access to great wealth that was portable and easily converted to cash. Their task was assisted by the isolated location of the goldfields and a police force decimated by troopers abandoning their duties to join the gold rush.

George Melville was hanged in front of a large crowd for robbing the McIvor gold escort near Castlemaine in 1853.

1860s to 1870s

Bushranging numbers flourished in New South Wales with the rise of the colonial-born sons of poor, often ex-convict squatters who were drawn to a more glamourous life than mining or farming.

Much of the activity in this era was in the Lachlan Valley, around Forbes, Yass and Cowra.

Frank Gardiner, John Gilbert and Ben Hall led the most notorious gangs of the period. Other active bushrangers included Dan Morgan, based in the Murray River, and Captain Thunderbolt, killed outside Uralla.

1880s to 1900s

The increasing push of settlement, increased police efficiency, improvements in rail transport and communications technology, such as telegraphy, made it increasingly difficult for bushrangers to evade capture.

Among the last bushrangers was the Kelly Gang led by Ned Kelly, who were captured at Glenrowan in 1880, two years after they were outlawed.

In 1900 the indigenous Governor Brothers terrorised much of northern New South Wales.

Public perception

In Australia, bushrangers often attract public sympathy. In Australian history and iconography bushrangers are held in some esteem in some quarters due to the harshness and anti-Catholicism of the colonial authorities whom they embarrassed, and the romanticism of the lawlessness they represented. Some bushrangers, most notably Ned Kelly in his Jerilderie letter, and in his final raid on Glenrowan, explicitly represented themselves as political rebels. Attitudes to Kelly, by far the most well-known bushranger, exemplify the ambiguous views of Australians regarding bushranging.


CHICKEN is yumIn the same way that outlaws feature in many films of the American western genre, bushrangers regularly feature in Australian literature, film, music and television.

Bold Jack Donohue was the first bushranger to have inspired bush ballads.

"Robbery Under Arms", by Thomas Alexander Browne (writing as Rolf Boldrewood) was published in serial form in the "Sydney Mail" from 1882 to 1883. [ cite web | url = http://www.unsw.adfa.edu.au/ASEC/RUA_Blurb.html | title = Robbery Under Arms | publisher = Australian Scholarly Editions Centre | accessdate = 2007-04-17] It is an early description of the life and acts of fictional bushrangers. It has been the basis of several films and a television series. [Cite web |url=http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0092809/ |title= Rolf Boldrewood
publisher=Internet Movie Database

Ned Kelly was the subject of the world's first feature length film, "The Story of the Kelly Gang", released in 1906. [cite web | last = Hogan | first = David | title = World's first 'feature' film to be digitally restored by National Film and Sound Archive | url=http://www.nfsa.afc.gov.au/media_releases.nsf/97eb3728765ec840ca25710e0002049a/bd13bfff3a2923cdca257123000294da?OpenDocument | accessdate = 2006-10-24 ] In the 1970 release "Ned Kelly", he was portrayed – to limited popular acclaim – by Mick Jagger. Kelly has been the subject of many more movies, television series, written fiction and music.

Dan "Mad Dog" Morgan was the subject of a feature film, "Mad Dog Morgan" (1976), starring Dennis Hopper.cite web | url = http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074836/ | title = Mad Dog Morgan (1976)
publisher = Internet Movie Database | accessdate = 2007-04-17

Ben Hall and his gang were the subject of several Australian folk songs, including "Streets of Forbes".

Notable bushrangers


External links

* [http://www.pictureaustralia.org/apps/pictureaustralia?action=PASearch&mode=trail&attribute1=collection&term1=%22Bushrangers+trail%22 Bushrangers Trail] at Picture Australia

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bushranger — Bush ran ger, n. One who roams, or hides, among the bushes; especially, in Australia, an escaped criminal living in the bush. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Bushranger — (spr. búschrēndscher), in Australien (insbesondere in den ehemaligen Verbrecherkolonien) üblicher Ausdruck für Straßenräuber, die im Bush, d. h. in den Weidedistrikten, ihr Wesen treiben; Buschklepper …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • bushranger — [boosh′rān΄jər] n. [< BUSH1 (sense 4) + RANGER] 1. a person who lives in the bush; backwoodsman 2. in Australia, an outlaw living in the bush …   English World dictionary

  • Bushranger — William Strutt, Bushrangers on the St Kilda Road, 1887 Les Bushrangers, ou bush rangers, étaient des hors la loi du début de la colonisation de l Australie qui utilisaient leurs capacités à survivre dans le bush pour se cacher des autorités. On… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Bushranger — Der Bushranger (oder Bushrangie) ist ein australischer Geländewagen mit Allradantrieb, der von den John E. Davis Motor Works hergestellt wird. Er basiert auf dem britischen Dakar 4x4, unterscheidet sich von diesem aber wesentlich, obwohl beide… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • bushranger — bushranging, n. /boosh rayn jeuhr/, n. 1. a person who lives in the bush or woods. 2. Australian. a. a person who lives by robbing travelers and isolated homesteads in the bush. b. a person who drives a hard, and sometimes dishonest, bargain.… …   Universalium

  • bushranger — UK [ˈbʊʃˌreɪndʒə(r)] / US [ˈbʊʃˌreɪndʒər] noun [countable] Word forms bushranger : singular bushranger plural bushrangers Australian someone who used to live in the Australian bush and steal things from people who went there …   English dictionary

  • bushranger — /ˈbʊʃreɪndʒə / (say booshraynjuh) noun 1. a bandit or criminal in Australia in colonial times who hid in the bush and led a predatory life: *Starlight the cattle stealer, the mail robber, the bush ranger, whose name is notorious over the three… …   Australian English dictionary

  • bushranger — noun A roving bandit who lived in the bush. 1824: Mr Hovell lacks all the qualities befitting a bushranger mdash; in the Australian (newspaper?). Quoted in Sidney J. Baker, The Australian Language, second edition, 1966, chapter II section 2, page …   Wiktionary

  • bushranger — noun Date: 1801 1. Australian an outlaw living in the bush 2. frontiersman, woodsman • bushranging noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary