Rockhampton Floods – A Lot of Bull

I heard from my sister today, who was wondering about the ‘cow statues’ in Rockhampton, given the current flood situation all over the news.  I grinned as I felt the makings of another blog post coming to mind. She and I took a few trips up to Rockhampton when I lived in Gladstone, just over an hour’s drive away. How indeed are those cows coping with the flood waters I wonder?

Up, close and personal with this Rockhampton bull in 2010 – photo by Esther Colavecchio

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April 2017

They are not cows, in fact, but six bull statues dotted around the city that represent the main breeds of the area. These larger than life-sized monuments are situated throughout Rockhampton in recognition of the city’s title of Beef Capital of Australia. After a bit of research, I came up with some interesting facts and figures about the boisterous bovines.

The first two statues were erected in January 1979.  This was a time when ‘big things’ were, well pardon the pun, a ‘big thing’. Remember when The Big Banana (Coffs Harbour – built in1964) and the Big Pineapple (Sunshine Coast – built in 1971) were cool?  Rockhampton, that had long been known for the quality and quantity of its beef, deserved something that would promote this fact and celebrate the region.  Then Mayor of Rockhampton, Rex Pilbeam, engaged the services of a well-known Sunshine Coast artist to create one Brahman and one Bradford bull. Each statue was ordered to be 25% larger than their real-life equivalents.

After great ceremony and celebration amongst locals and officials, the bulls were secured to their permanent locations.  The statues were so exact and lifelike that soon there was controversy about the anatomical correctness of the bulls. This ‘correctness’ did not last too long. Under cover of darkness, in February 1979, the poor Brahman (who was quite unable to escape his assailants) was emasculated.  This unfortunate and unsuspecting bull was perhaps ahead of its time, undergoing a gender re-assignment operation in times when this was still quite a hush-hush topic. No bull.

The situation was ‘restored’ and the bull was put back to its original state. Not to put too delicate a spin on it. Everything was well again in the Beef Capital.  The publicity received by this incident, however, sparked enthusiasm to continue this ‘gender re-assignment’ trend. This was especially the case as the statue population grew and were more bulls to be tampered with. Backpackers or Uni students were often branded as the culprits. Luckily there was a shed full of replacement, er, ‘bits’ close by so the bulls could be re-instated after each annoying incident.

Whoever these Bullying Bandits were, these pesky incidents only served to increase and enhance the reputation of Rockhampton as a city full of good humour and resilience. This has and always will serve Rockhampton well during flood crisis events, such the current situation. I wish Rockhampton residents all the very best in the mammoth clean-up that is ahead of them after TC Debbie came to town.  I do hope they won’t mind me mentioning this load of bull and will take it as an affectionate nod to their humour and good spirited nature.

Former Rockhampton Mayor Brad Carter summed it up well, when was asked about the bulls back in April 2010, that: –

“I think it shows a bit of the light-hearted nature of our community, that we do enjoy a joke, we do look on the lighter side of life,” he said.

“I think it’s just a great testament to the fact that our history and heritage of this region has been developed around the beef industry.”

So, as far as I know, the bulls remain in good spirits today, standing proudly to watch over Rockhampton come hell or high water.

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Written by Esther Colavecchio

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