The Great Kangaroo Fight of 1894

There have been some great and famous fighters over the years, but none more so than Australia’s boxing kangaroos that took on the world. Therefore, the most exciting fight in history may surprise you. I told a version of this story on West Bremer Radio.

There was Ronaldo the boxing kangaroo at Lone Pine in Brisbane. In 1937 he sparred with the great Spingbok rugby scrum-half Danie Craven. But more famous was Aussie the heavyweight boxing kangaroo from Adelaide. He weighed thirteen stone and had a reach of four feet, and he twice knocked out his owner.

Aussie the boxing kangaroo

In 1928 Aussie left his Adelaide base to fight in Brisbane and Toowoomba and then got offers to fight in Europe. In 1929 he arrived in England and trained in London’s East End.

After nine years as a professional boxer, Aussie retired to the London Zoo in 1937 after he contracted arthritis in his tail.

As famous as Aussie and his exploits in England were, what I believe to be the greatest kangaroo fight of all time happened right here in Australia at Ipswich, Queensland, in 1894.

One of the combatants was fifty-one-year-old Robert Bennett. He was a labourer who lived in Thorn Street in Ipswich.

He grew up at Tandragee Castle in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, where his father worked on the estate of the 8th Duke of Manchester. The Dukes of Manchester have tragically shamed the aristocracy for generations as fraudsters, drug addicts and jailbirds. The current 13th Duke was convicted of fraud in Australia in 1985 for which he served nine months in prison, and was convicted a second in Brisbane in 1991.

George Montagu, 8th Duke of Manchester

Back in the 19th century the Bennett family came to Ipswich. That’s where Robert’s brother Henry lived until he was ninety-years-old, and his mother Elizabeth to ninety-six. So Robert Bennett was made of tough stuff.

On the morning of Tuesday the 31st of December 1894, Robert was driving a cow near the intersection of Warwick Road and Short Street. That’s when he was confronted by a full-grown old man kangaroo. 

The cow refused to go on, and so Robert advanced with the purpose of hunting the old man away. But the kangaroo was not amenable to persuasion and seemed to resent Robert’s approach. In short, it straightaway went for him and a serious street brawl ensued.

The kangaroo with pugnacity worthy of the world’s greatest fighters, bustled its human opponent in the most aggressive boxing fashion, and knocked Robert to the ground. But the kangaroo had evidently not mastered the principles of British fair play, because it then proceeded to hit, bite, and scratch its prostrate antagonist.

Robert defended himself by grabbing the kangaroo’s paws, and the two continued to roll around on the ground.

The kangaroo probably would have completely gutted Robert had it not been for the fact that the man wore a heavy leather belt. The animal got in major slashes with its hind claws, but the belt stopped any serious damage happening. Robert was still severely scratched on the chest and abdomen.

Indeed, Robert was getting soundly beaten when a young lady came by, and seeing his predicament, caught the kangaroo by the tail which allowed Robert to roll out of the kangaroo’s clutches.

Robert then returned to the attack with renewed vigour, and having caught the kangaroo by the scruff of the neck, he allowed the young lady to let go of the tail.

At this stage some children living in the neighbourhood yelled at the kangaroo, at which point it nonchalantly stopped, and hopped away.

Robert Bennett never lived to the great age of his brother and mother, because in 1918 aged just seventy-four, he passed away at his home in Thorn Street which was just around the corner from what must be the most exciting kangaroo fight in history.


Photo credits:
Kangaroo Boxing sideshow poster – Wikiwand
Aussie boxing kangaroo – Sydney Morning Herald, 3rd December 1930, page 18
George Montagu, 8th Duke of Manchester – then Viscount Mandeville, Vanity Fair, 22nd April 1882

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