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Wright, Colin William (1867–1952)

by Brian F. Stevenson

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Colin William Wright (1867-1952), studmaster, was born on 10 October 1867 at Oxley, near Brisbane, son of John Wright, a Cornish-born farmer, and his wife Ellen, née McColl, from Scotland. Colin spent his early life on his father's dairy farm at Caboolture; later, with his brother James, he successfully dealt in cattle at Kilcoy. Switching to cattle-breeding, he bought Jellinbah station (695 sq. miles, 1800 km²) on the Mackenzie River, near Blackwater. Having sold it in 1911, he bought and sold Nottingham Downs, a sheep-property near Hughenden. After a world tour, in 1914 Wright took up Waverley, a 50,000-acre (20,235 ha) holding near St Lawrence, 125 miles (201 km) north of Rockhampton. Adding neighbouring properties, he trebled Waverley's area and made it capable of carrying 10,000 cattle.

When drought destroyed half his Hereford herd in 1926, Wright decided to seek a breed better adapted to the region. He became interested in the characteristics exhibited by beasts of Zebu (Brahman) or Bos indicus blood—especially their resistance to drought and tick, and their ability to exist and even thrive on poor quality pasture—and experimented with several part-Zebu animals which he brought from New South Wales. By the time these cattle had produced award-winning offspring, Wright had already made his decision. With a syndicate in 1933 he imported nineteen Zebus, chosen in the United States of America by Dr Ralph Kelley of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. He used the animals to produce pure Zebus, as well as mating them with Herefords.

Many cattlemen, like James Wilson, were at first sceptical and angry: they feared that Zebu crossbreeding would 'fill the country with mongrels and … do great damage to the cattle industry of Australia'. As late as 1939, after Wright's Waverley steers had won prizes for their carcasses, the Queensland minister for agriculture, Frank Bulcock, said that 'the best things to do with our Zebus was to round them up and shoot them'. Other cattle-breeders, however, followed Wright's example and he lived to see central Queensland's cattle industry accept new animals for an unchangeable environment, rather than forcing existing ones to endure inimical conditions. Fittingly, in 1946 Wright became the first patron of the Australian Zebu Society.

A Broadsound Shire councillor for twenty-three years, Wright served three terms as its chairman. He was a generous benefactor to charities and was valued as a sincere man of firm convictions and good sense. He died, unmarried, at Rockhampton on 14 December 1952 and was cremated. His estate was sworn for probate at £162,636. The Colin Wright Laboratory at the University of Queensland school of veterinary science was opened in 1963.

Select Bibliography

  • I. Gibson, Australian Tropical Beef Cattle (Townsville, 1963)
  • L. McDonald, Cattle Country (Brisb, 1988)
  • Queensland Country Life, 24 Dec 1952
  • Proceedings of the Royal Society of Queensland, 98 (1987), p 1
  • Rockhampton Morning Bulletin, 17 Dec 1952.

Citation details

Brian F. Stevenson, 'Wright, Colin William (1867–1952)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/wright-colin-william-9199/text16249, published in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 2 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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