My work for the last couple of weeks has been carefully reading the Port Phillip Herald.
I’ve been mystified by this advertisement which has been appearing regularly, issue after issue :
“WANTED. A Female Kangaroo. Apply at the Herald Office”
And now, on 10 December 1841 we have:
“FOR SALE. Two thorough-bred Kangaroo Pups, 5 months old. Apply at Herald Office. Melbourne 6 Dec.”
What’s going on here? I’m not sure if the advertisements refer to kangaroos (as in hopping marsupials) or whether they refer perhaps to kangaroo dogs? James Boyce, in his excellent book ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ talks about the dogs used to hunt kangaroos, but in VDL they were known as the deerhound, the Irish wolfhound, Irish greyhound, Highland deerhound and Scottish greyhound. Boyce writes:
Killing by the neck a full-grown kangoroo or emus was a difficult and dangerous affair, even for such powerful canines. Speed was of the essence, which led to the wolfhounds being crossed with greyhounds. One immigrant reported on the outcome of such breeding: “the dogs used here to hunt the kangaroo have the shape and general character of the greyhound, but are very much larger in size, and coarser all together, uniting great strength with speed. (James Boyce, Van Diemen’s Land p 24)
After all, how can a marsupial-Kangaroo be anything else other than pure-bred? Did they know the term ‘joey’ for a young Kangaroo? Why would anyone WANT a female kangaroo?