A new photo from the Powerhouse Museum every day
This image from our collection shows a sepia photograph of a magnificent merino ram named ‘His Majesty’ from the famous Wanganella Station near Deniliquin in New South Wales. This photo is thought to date from around 1890. The note on the mount says that His Majesty was sold for 2000 guineas to South Africa when he was 5 years old. A guinea equates to roughly £1.05 so His Majesty would have cost about $4,200 in today’s currency – an enormous sum in 1890.
So what could have made a 5 year old ram so valuable? Rams are valuable because of their own body shape, hardiness, resilience and wool quality. Most importantly, they can pass on their characteristics to their offspring. At 5 years old His Majesty would have already demonstrated his breeding prowess and as pampered stud ram his new owner could expect him to perform until he was at least 10 years old. Merinos are known to be a long lived sheep and can live to over 20 years old.
Wanganella was one of the most influential sheep stations in the evolution of the Peppin Merino sheep in Australia. The Spanish and Saxon Merinos introduced into Australia, soon after European settlement, were only able to produce one to two kilograms of wool each year. Peppin Merinos were bred to be larger, stronger animals with much longer wool, and a Peppin ram today may produce up to 20 kilograms of wool.
Perhaps just as importantly, His Majesty would have provided an important status symbol for his new South African owner, especially as he came from such a prominent Australian stud. It is likely that J S Minnour Esq enjoyed parading His Majesty at the major Agricultural Shows in his homeland as well as the undoubted improvement to his flock.
Post by Lynne McNairn
Photographer unknown, c 1890 (95/265/1)
No known copyright restrictions.