The Lonely Long Paddock

The danger that lies at the heart of the legend

The stretch of road starting at Moama NSW and ending at Wilcannia has been a part of the National Stock Route for many years. These days, it’s called the Long Paddock.

Road-side Grazing 

The term Long Paddock stems from the days when teamsters would bring large mobs of cattle from their stations in Queensland, down through New South

Wales to end up at the markets in Melbourne. The term Long Paddock comes from the drovers being allowed to graze their cattle on the way through, by the side of the road, usually crown land. Fences were set well back from the side of the road, to let the cattle graze without being too close to passing traffic. The road verge north of Moama still reflects this well, with the distance being almost a kilometre between fence lines either side of the road.

Beware, the Black Swamp 
There is a warning for the stockmen near the area around Black Swamp, north of Deniliquin and just south of Hay. The “Headless Horseman” was rumoured to be in this area where drovers would camp for the night to rest themselves and their horses, and let the cattle feed on the local salt bush.

The spirit-like figure would ride quietly into the herd, cut out a couple of likely steers and steal them away, all under the cover of darkness. Strangely, these cattle often ended up in the holding pens of a local butcher known for unscrupulous practices, and then on the table of his customers.

Prophecy or Profit? 

The Headless Horseman, alias the cunning butcher, wore a frame tied to his back and through the sleeves of his heavy coat and by doing up the buttons, it would appear the rider was headless. For a few years, he got away with this theft, playing on the superstitions and fear of the passing drovers.

The area made them very wary, and the mobs of cattle were only rested here when necessary. But those Hay Plains are wide, and the headless horseman learned of the mob’s arrival and rode many a mile to take advantage of their presence.


Remember, the Watchman

The next time you cross the Hay Plains and choose to rest your cattle overnight in that Black Swamp area, make sure you post a good night watchman or you too may become a victim of the Headless Horseman. You can read more about him if you are brave enough to stop for a while.

Learn more about The Long Paddock here.