As fences go, Australia’s Dingo fence is the longest in the world. The two metre high mesh fence stretches 5 614 km across Australia and has split the continent in two for the past 130 years. Dingoes, Australia’s wild dogs have been a major problem on agricultural land since the beginning of European settlement. Sheep are one of their favourite meals and they can inflict serious damage on valuable sheep flocks. Just ask wool producers in western Queensland who are still struggling to control the packs of marauding dogs attacking their flocks. But the problem of wild dogs isn’t restricted to Northern Australia, above the fence. Hybrid animals and other wild dogs (not dingoes) are causing problems south as well although the pure dingo is now mainly non-existent in the south.
While rabbit and kangaroo hides earned trappers good money and kept many a bushie alive especially during the economic downswings and droughts that plagued the first fifty years of nineteen hundreds, the biggest bounties were saved for dingoes. Dingo bounties began in the 1850s however by the 1900s it was decided that the best way to control the wild dogs was to stop them entering the southeast of the continent where sheep were produced in great numbers.
The dingo fence arose by the joining of a number of rabbit-proof fences that were already in place across Queensland. Part of the original rabbit fence was constructed between 1880 and 1885 however the fences deterred larger animals such as pigs and emus rather than making much impact on the fast-producing rabbit population that was decimating agricultural land as well.
(Picture – Emu’s migrating). This led to the decision in 1914 to expand this section of the rabbit fence and increase its height in an effort to keep out dingos. In 1930, an estimated 32,000 km of dog netting in Queensland alone was being used on top of rabbit fences. Prior to 1948, the idea of a Dingo Barrier Fence Scheme had not come into fruition as a state-wide project, however eventually over the next seventy years or so portions of fence were joined up with other sections of fencing such as the Queensland Border Fence, the South Australia Border Fence, and the section that stretches across South Australia known simply as the Dog Fence. Beginning at the Queensland village of Jimbour in the Darling Downs, the fence zigzags across Australia to the cliffs of the Nullabor Plain above the Great Australian Bight. It’s a mighty achievement, although contrary to popular opinion, like the Great Wall of China myth, it can’t be seen from space either.