WTF Facts

The Great Emu War of 1932 between the Australian Army and the Birds

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Written by Tadese Faforiji

Attributes of Emu

The Emu War of 1932, also known as the Great Emu War, was a war that broke out between the Australians and the Emus. The emus look like ostriches. They have some similar attributes. The emus are strong, tall, and flightless, and they have fluffy feathers and long necks.

These birds are indigenous to Australia. Although there are many claims about the actual year or era when the emus started to exist in this region, it’s rather generally believed that the emus were native to Australia.

The emus which settled in the middle of Australia also travelled afar to fend for food and water to survive. It should also be noted that these birds don’t move separately; they move in groups and set in their search for foodstuffs.

The Great Emu War of 1932, also known as the Great Emu War, was a war that broke out between the Australians and the Emus. Today, this happening has become a bizarre event in the history of mankind on mother earth.

It was hard to digest that there was a particular war between humans and animals at a particular period of time in history. The war was not just a mere war. It was fought by Australian troops equipped with heavy weapons to defeat the emus.

Causes of the War

As a result of the First World War (1914-1918), thousands of Australian veterans established camps in Western Australia, that is, very close to the emus. And they engaged in farming activities to survive the postwar era.

Unfortunately for the veterans (now farmers), their crops and soil suffered destruction due to the spoilage caused by the emus. And to break the camel’s back, drought wrought its own havoc on the remaining crops.

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As this continued, life became harder for the soldiers to live and there was inflation. They couldn’t survive this era; therefore they started to engage in military punishment for the emus.

The soldiers took their guns and started to eliminate the emus. The actual number of emus killed in this period is debatable, the soldiers were able to kill roughly 1000 emus in months, and totally as of 1928, only 3000 emus had been killed (1).

The Australians decided to eradicate the emu birds from the surface of the earth because they were destroying their crops and soil.

Due to the multitude of birds, the Australian soldiers were heavily deployed to the field to fight the emu birds, and as they moved closer to them, the birds also made amazing military arrangements. They moved en mass across the soldiers’ camps.

The Emu birds were resolute to ravage the army, and their military behaviour (which was well known to them) was amazing to the Australian army who kept deploying troops to this region. However, they were able to destroy a few birds after a few days of the war.

In return, the emus, in thousands (about 20, 000) invaded the farms of these veterans in 1932 as revenge against the 1928 killing of their relatives. This time, the soldiers approached the minister of defence to declare war against the birds and granted ammunitions to the soldiers.

The minister granted some ammunition, including machine guns and over 10, 000 bullets (2), to the farmers, and therefore, the war between humans and birds started.

The Course of the War

The Australian soldiers had tactically arranged themselves to war the emus, especially by ambushing the birds, and also, the opening of fire in contact with the thousands of the emus.

Unfortunately for the soldiers, the emus enjoyed the shade of nearby big trees whenever they left the farmland. Therefore, it was difficult for the soldiers to have effective shots against them. And they (emus) also stayed out of the gun range with the pattern of their workouts.

The Australian (veterans) farmers were defeated in the first battle because they retreated. All ambushes for the birds went awry, and the machine guns jammed after firing about a dozen bullets, before a remedy was reached, the birds quickly scampered to another direction and find other meeting days to continue their battles.

the emus and the soldiers. Foreignpolicyi photo.

The funniest part of the war was the nature in which it was being circulated across the world. While it was funny to the ear of the world, the war was not a mere battle for the Australians as they suffered a catastrophic defeat.

There were several meetings and steps taken by the Australian government among its military men to totally get rid of the trending mark of inefficiency.

The army of over 10, 000 rounds was able to kill roughly 1, 000 emus in months! And unfortunately for the Australians, they lost their crops and good soil to the continuous war.

Realising how fast and smart the emus were, the commander of the soldiers, Meredith, decided to attach machine guns at the back of vehicles to chase the emus as they runoff.

Unfortunately, this strategy also failed. While the gunmen kept to the guns, the emus found escapes under the nearby trees; they regrouped themselves and quickly run off zigzagging.

Therefore, a vehicle could only chase a bird at a time. With this, they could not kill a large number of birds. Using this tactic, a bird was not killed

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The Australian army later quitted its initial move of destroying the emus, and as they bore the brunt of the war, surrendered to the emus! The birds went on a rampage of the Australian farms as after-war punishment for the Australians. The people could not do anything in the face of emus’ continuous rampage, and they (the emu) won the war.

The End of the War

When examining this war, it is now an embarrassment for the soldiers and the government. Simply, the emus won the war! Although there were no human casualties, the soldiers could hardly kill a thousand out of over 20, 000 emus after wasting over 9, 800 bullets (2).

It became an embarrassment for the soldiers and a victory for the emus. The government was not ready to repeat the mistake, therefore, stayed out of the war by total withdrawal.

Facts to Know

The emus were so strong that they could take several bullets before death, not that the Australian veterans did not use all their efforts up to the task. A bird was hit by a truck and the bird died, this was several days after the initial shootings.

And when the bird was examined, five bullets were found in it. This shows how strong the emus were that they could not be killed by a bullet (perhaps from such types of guns used then).

The emus were resolute, and the heavy machines and guns meant nothing much to them as they faced machine guns with invulnerable strength. It was also argued that the emus runoff from the farmland because it had been harvested and they had nothing to devour on the land, not because they could not face the threat of the soldiers and their machines.

The Emus, Now

Now, the emus are farmed for many purposes including getting of oil, feather, meat and leather. The indigenous peoples used its oil for medical purposes like relieving inflammation and swells, and also, aches and other pains in the body. It’s now used in many hair and pet care products (3).

Emus of mature age range between 5 to 6 feet in height and weigh between 90 – 120 pounds. Running at speeds up to 40 miles per hour, they can cover about nine feet with every stride (Qrius). Emu eggs can be eaten, and have a mild flavour, and they are about the size of ten chicken eggs

Cite as: Faforiji Tadese. The Great Emu War of 1932 between the Australian Army and the Birds. October 17, 2021. Tadexprof. Retrieved at


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About the author

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Tadese Faforiji

I am Tadese Faforiji, a history student of the prestigious Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State- 21st-century University, properly called. I am a blogger and an avid writer.

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