NZ's First World War horses

Page 3 – Transporting horses from NZ

Nearly all of the 10,000 horses the government acquired for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force between 1914 and 1916 went overseas. They served in the locations where New Zealanders principally served - in German Samoa, at Gallipoli, in the Middle East and on the Western Front. More than half were ridden by the mounted troops and officers. Nearly 4000 were draught, heavy draught or packhorses used for artillery and transport purposes.

The horses were transported from New Zealand by sea, primarily to Egypt. Nearly 4000 went with the Main Body in October 1914. Smaller groups of between 300 and 1000 followed until late 1916, when the Defence Department stopped sending horses because of lack of shipping. The largest number of horses carried on one ship was 728 on HMNZT Orari, a Main Body transport. The troops detailed to care for the horses were supervised by officers of the New Zealand Veterinary Corps, who accompanied most of the transports carrying horses.

Thanks to lessons learnt transporting horses from New Zealand by sea during the South African (‘Boer’) War,  improvements were made on board to ‘ventilation, hygiene, space, feeding and watering procedures’. This made the experience more bearable for the horses (and the men), and meant horses arrived in better shape than they had in the earlier war.

Only around 3% of the horses died whilst being transported from New Zealand, mainly from diseases such as pneumonia. The corpses were generally thrown overboard, sometimes at night so that they would not give away the position of the convoy.

How to cite this page

'Transporting horses from NZ', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 29-Jul-2014