I’m sure that we have all heard of the term ‘Billy Cart’ which refers to a small cart with no power or pedals which was usually constructed and ridden by children. However the term originally came from Billy Goat Carts which were small carts pulled by one or sometimes two goats hitched to a small cart with a seat for one or sometimes two children.
As you will see from these ‘Goldfields Goat’ carriages it was popular from children of poorer families up to more stylish rigouts of the more well to do in the town. The goats were usually feral goats brought in from the bush and trained to pull a cart. The practice was eventually discontinued as being too cruel to the goats and dangerous to the children.
Goats and goat carts played an important part in the daily life and culture of early Australia. More than likely ridden by children undertaking chores on the family farm, carts like this were also used for goat cart racing – a leisure activity widespread throughout the state. Goat racing was often held as part of St Patrick’s Day Celebrations.
Goat racing was a popular pastime. There were goats at the St Patrick’s Day races at the Royal Brisbane Exhibition Grounds, the Townsville Kid Stakes. Rockhampton was known as the goat racing capital of Queensland.
Often large sums of money were illegally bet on the races outcome and ‘knobbling’ was rife among the competitors. One racer in Kalgoorlie was disqualified when he was found trying to get an opponents goat to swallow some whiskey. On another occasion beer was mixed with the goats food. I’m not sure if this was to slow the goat down or speed it up.
However there has been a resurgence of interest in the sport and it is now conducted in several places in Australia. These days there are strict safety rules and it is all run above board. How interesting would it be if we could have racing in Kalgoorlie once more.