Gregory Packsaddle

For simple and efficient equipment both for pack and saddle horses we do not know a better model than that adopted by Augustus C. Gregory, Commander of the North Australian Expedition, and now Gold Medallist of the Royal Geographical Society, with whom we had the honour of serving from 1856 to 1857.

The pack saddle, made under the direction of Mr. Gregory, consisted of two boards of Australian cedar, about twenty inches long by seven broad [500mm x 180mm], inclined at such an angle as to sit fairly on the horse’s ribs, and at such a distance from each other that the spine should remain uninjured between them. These were connected by two stout bows of iron, 1 1/2 in, broad by 3/8 in thick [38mm x 10mm], arching well clear of the horse’s back, and having on each side hooks firmly riveted into them for the suspension of the bags in which our provisions, &c, were stowed. The crupper was buckled round the aftermost bow, and the straps for the attachment of the breasting, breeching, and girths were screwed on the outside of this cedar planks. We hope the illustration on the next page is sufficiently clear to indicate the position of these without further description; it will be seen girths cross each other as they pass under the belly.

Gregorys packsaddle1

A pair of pads, sufficiently large to prevent not only the saddle but also the packs chafing the horse, were attached to the boards by thongs passing through holes bored in either end, so that upon occasion we could easily remove them to re-arrange the stuffing, and tie them again in their places. A thick felted saddle cloth was invaluable as an additional protection. The form of the bags will also be readily understood by a glance at the frontispiece. They were of stout canvas, as wide as one breadth of the material, and the ends were formed by a pear-shaped piece let in, and strongly roped round the seams; the loops at the upper part were bound with leather, and iron cringles or grummets were let in, by which to hang them on the hooks. No other fastening was used, so that if a horse fell in the rugged mountain paths, or fording a rough and swollen torrent, it was an advantage to him to shake of his bags at once, while we were generally able to fish them up again before even such perishable stores as sugar could be reached by water, through the pack and double bags of canvas in which we kept them. Nothing whatever was allowed to be fastened to the bows above the suspension hooks; indeed there was a general order that the horse should carry nothing that was not contained in the side bags. The smaller bags for flour, sugar, and other stores, were also the length of one breadth of canvas. One end was formed by a circular piece of canvas about eight inches [200mm] in diameter, and the other was left to be closed when they were filled. The inner bag was of plain canvas, and this was covered by another that was well saturated with boiled linseed oil; these held about fifty pounds [23kgs] of flour, &c., and in each flour bag two 1/2 lb [225grams] tins of gunpowder were kept perfectly secure from fire or water; we generally ate the flour as fast as wanted the powder. Each side of the bags was numbered, and carefully balanced one against the other, the stowage of each being from seventy to seventy five pounds [32-34kgs], so that the total load of the horse should not much exceed 160lb [73kgs].

Lord, W.B. & Baines, Thomas, Shifts and Expedients of Camp Life Travel, and Exploration, H. Cox, London, 1871, pp. 30-32.