Or a Guernsey. Jockeying for first place in this race is udderly ridiculous fun. Welcome to the country’s cow racing capital!
By Chris Blakemore and Heather Williams
The Mt Compass community don’t take themselves too seriously. As a township developed around the dairy industry and agriculture, they work hard and play hard. So when the Compass Cup event comes around in January, everyone jumps on board to make it a fun event.
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It’s something any local or interstate traveller should take time to experience, especially as it is the country’s only cow race. A local dairy hand saw one of his cows break from the herd at a brisk pace, inspiring the concept back in 1976; and it has continued to play a big part in the calendar of events in Mt Compass ever since.
This coming event is to be held on January 21 2017, so plan your travels to call in and experience a unique event that will provide hours of campfire tales for years on end. Of course, there’s a lot more history and features to experience around Mt Compass, but the dairy industry has certainly played a key role since 1899. It was home to a large Dairy Vale factory up until 1996 when bulk tankers and corporate consolidation saw an end to that.
While a lot of the small towns across the country are looking at a slow decay of their agricultural industries and communities, Mt Compass is defying the odds and has grown considerably over the years. Sand mining provides employment for the region, supplying foundries with the special silicas needed for glassware. New housing estates around the golf course intermingle with the surrounding bushlands and wildlife, making it a great place to live just south of Adelaide.
If you are planning on rolling up in your caravan, camper or motorhome, it would be wise to book ahead with the Mt Compass Caravan Park. It’s a nice spot, levelled out neatly and presenting very clean and well-kept – but it has limited capacity on big weekends. It offers all the facilities of large parks, but this one puts you almost right at the gates of the fun and festivities of the Compass Cup.
The many other establishments to visit include the vibrant Wetland Boardwalk where a number of the endangered southern emu wren species reside. An interpretive centre at the start of the 600m walk provides a host of information for visitors, and the boardwalk is supported by donations only.
A recent installation of sculptures by renowned international artists has added
another dimension to the scenery and uniqueness to this part of the region.
Of course agriculture and food remain central elements of the town and community so a wide variety of establishments cater for all types of tastes and interests. The Rainbow Trout Farm offers the chance to spin a line with private fly-fishing on offer, or for those whose fishing prowess results in snags (of either kind) freshly-smoked salmon and other specialty products are available. A visit to the Harvest the Fleurieu enterprise is a must if in the area, especially around November as the Pick Your Own strawberry season opens.
Of course, being in South Australia, there is almost always a wine region close by. McLaren Vale is one of the most highly regarded for its Shiraz variety. If you prefer a relaxing round of golf, the Mt Compass Golf Course provides an added element of interest with local wildlife wandering on the course fairways. It is an international standard 18-hole course, with restaurant facilities as well. All the equipment you may need for a casual round is available for hire to visitors.
Regardless of your preferences in entertainment – be it galloping bovines with crazed jockeys having udder fun in the Compass Cup, feeding your face with smoked trout or fresh strawberries – there is much to see and do throughout and around Mt Compass.
The dairy industry will no doubt continue to play a central role in the development of this small community; but if there is one other thing the cow racing capital of Australia does take seriously, it’s welcoming travellers.
It’s a good bet you’ll have fun!
Even the rules provide a hint of the jocularity with which this event is held…
1. Swearing at officials is not permitted.
2. Jockeys and jockettes must abide
by all official decisions.
3. Spectators are requested to refrain from unruly
demonstrations (particularly during official speeches).
4. No kicking of opponents or cows.
5. All winners will be swabbed.
6. No correspondence will be entered into.
Judges’ decision will be final.
7. Officials shall follow the decisions of the spectators.
8. All trained cows will be hobbled.
9. All entries will be haltered.
Mt Compass is situated under an hour south of Adelaide GPO via the A13 which also leads to Victor Harbor.
Getting there: An alternative scenic route might be to take a more south-easterly direction via Clarendon, Kuitpo Forest and through Dingabledinga.
GPS coordinates are 35.34915°S 138.621670°E.
Weather: Expect warm‚ dry‚ summers with temperatures ranging from 14 to 28°C‚ but somewhat cooler winters than the 7 to 17°C most information services suggest.