Two bulls and four cows escaped from the First Fleet settlement at Farm Cove, five months after the First Fleet’s arrival, in May 1788. The cattle travelled some 40 miles through undeveloped country to Menangle. The settlers were entertained by Aboriginal dancers dancing “the dance of the bulls.”.
They were seen by the Aboriginal people but were first sighted by a convict hunter in 1795, some seven years after they escaped, and they had multiplied to about forty cows and two bulls. In 1795, Governor Hunter came to see them and named the hill he climbed Mt Taurus.
He also then named the area the “Cowpastures” Once caught, this was the first occasion that the new Sydney colony ate fresh beef. Governor Hunter made it a crime to kill these cattle, so they could multiply and to preserve the food. It was then that he realized the colony would survive.
Two constables were stationed in a new house called “Cowpastures House” in early 1805 at Elderslie, near the ford crossing of the Nepean to protect the cattle, the current Cowpasture Bridge. The area was declared a government reserve to enable the cattle to continue to multiply. Only the Macarthur’s and the Davidson’s were authorized to cross the Nepean River after 1805 when their grants were received, but the government surveyor James Meehan noted there was an established track to the region.
Welcome to the historic Highlands