The Great Emu War

Today I would like to commemorate the 83rd anniversary of Australia’s defeat in the Great Emu War.


In 1932, during the Great Depression, emus were causing a serious problem for wheat farmers in the Campion region of Australia. The emus were migrating towards the coast from inland after the mating season, and they were hungry. Vast numbers of the birds (we’re talking thousands) descended upon the wheat crops, eating, trampling, and damaging fences. The already struggling farmers demanded help from the Australian Government. The Ministry of Defence sent a small deployment of soldiers armed with two machine-guns. At first the soldiers enlisted local men to help herd the emus towards the guns. They were able to drop a small number of birds, however the emus quickly scattered, running at top speed in zig-zag patterns, and no more were felled that day. Several more attempts of this nature were made, however the emus were proving too fast and too tough for the soldiers to do any real damage to their numbers. At one point the soldiers mounted the machine-guns on trucks and attempted to run the emus down this way, but the emus outran the trucks and the ride was too bumpy for the soldiers to shoot. By the sixth day of the engagement, 2500 rounds of ammunition had been fired and the highest estimate of birds killed was 200-500 (the lowest being only 12). The guns and military personal were withdrawn; the commanding officer reported that they had suffered no casualties. He also compared the emus to Zulu warriors, saying:

“If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world… They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks. They are like Zulus whom even dum-dum bullets could not stop.”

Emus. Thousands of them.
Emus. Thousands of them.

An ornathologist commented:

“The machine-gunners’ dreams of point blank fire into serried masses of Emus were soon dissipated. The Emu command had evidently ordered guerrilla tactics, and its unwieldy army soon split up into innumerable small units that made use of the military equipment uneconomic. A crestfallen field force therefore withdrew from the combat area after about a month.”


See this comic by Veritable Hokum for further amusement.


One thought on “The Great Emu War

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