Taupe's Tribute to
The Dog on the Tuckerbox

Like much of Australia's early folklore, the origins of the Dog on the Tuckerbox are clouded in mystery, uncertainty and controversy.

Yet, as with 'Waltzing Matilda', its origins lie firmly in the Australian bush and the early pioneers - who in this case forged west and south from the colonial headquarters in Sydney, following the explorers searching for the source of the Murrumbidgee River. Numbers of them took up holdings in the Gundagai district in the period 1830-50.

They were hard and hazardous times with supplies and stores having to be transported along makeshift tracks over rough terrain by bullock teams. To pass the time while often being bogged, or for the river level to fall at crossings such as Muttama Creek near Gundagai, 'bullockies' would recite doggerel and rhymes picked up on their travels - and, sometimes, even write a few lines. Often on such occasions the bullocky's dog would sit guarding its master's tuckerbox and possessions while he was away seeking help.

Prime Minister Joe Lyons unveiling the Dog in 1932

So was the legend of 'The Dog on the Tuckerbox' born in the 1850s. Whoever the author (using the pen name 'Bowyang Yorke'), the verse was amended some time later and promoted as a poem by Jack Moses. Its popularity quickly spread, capturing the imagination of Australians both in the bush and throughout the colony. Though the legend was also immortalised by Jack O'Hagan in 1937 in his popular song that put Gundagai on the world map, controversy continued over the exact location of the monument - 5 or 9 miles from the town - and later, on whether to move the famous monument in, or closer to, the town.

From The Dog On The Tuckerbox - Its Story by Lyn Scarff.

Bowyang Yorke's Poem

As I was coming down Conroy's Gap,
I heard a maiden cry;
'There goes Bill the Bullocky,
He's bound for Gundagai.
A better poor old beggar
Never earnt an honest crust,
A better poor old beggar
Never drug a whip through dust.'
His team got bogged at the nine mile creek,
Bill lashed and swore and cried;
'If Nobby don't get me out of this,
I'll tattoo his bloody hide.'
But Nobby strained and broke the yoke,
And poked out the leader's eye;
Then the dog sat on the Tucker Box
Nine miles from Gundagai.

'Nine Miles from Gundagai' by Jack Moses

I've done my share of shearing sheep,
Of droving and all that;
And bogged a bullock team as well,
On a Murrumbidgee flat.
I've seen the bullock stretch and strain
And blink his bleary eye,
And the dog sit on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

I've been jilted, jarred and crossed in love,
And sand-bagged in the dark,
Till if a mountain fell on me,
I'd treat it as a lark.
It's when you've got your bullocks bogged,
That's the time you flog and cry,
And the dog sits on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

We've all got our little troubles,
In life's hard, thorny way.
Some strike them in a motor car
And others in a dray.
But when your dog and bullocks strike,
It ain't no apple pie,
And the dog sat on the tuckerbox
Nine miles from Gundagai.

But that's all past and dead and gone,
And I've sold the team for meat,
And perhaps, some day where I was bogged,
There'll be an asphalt street,
The dog, ah! well he got a bait,
And thought he'd like to die,
So I buried him in the tuckerbox,
Nine miles from Gundagai.

Last modified 10 January 1997.