The bush

This article is about the wilds. For the wild, see wilderness. For other uses, see Bush (disambiguation).
The Australian bush

"The bush" is a term used for rural, undeveloped land or country areas in certain countries.

Usage by country


Australian bush in the state of Victoria.

The concept of "the bush" has become iconic in Australia.[1] In reference to the landscape, "bush" refers to any sparsely-inhabited region, regardless of vegetation. "The bush" in this sense was something that was uniquely Australian and very different from the green European landscapes familiar to many new immigrants. The term "Outback" is also used, but usually in association with the more arid inland areas of Australia. "The Bush" also refers to any populated region outside of the major metropolitan areas, including mining and agricultural areas. Consequently, it is not unusual to have a mining town in the desert such as Port Hedland (Pop. 14,000) referred to as "the bush" within the media.[2]

Bush poets such as Henry Lawson and Banjo Paterson revered the bush as a source of national ideals, as did contemporaneous painters in the Heidelberg School like Tom Roberts (1856-1931), Arthur Streeton (1867-1943) and Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917).[3] Romanticising the bush in this way was a big step forward for Australians in their steps towards self-identity. The legacy is a folklore rich in the spirit of the bush.

Australians affix the term "bush" to any number of other entities or activities to describe their rural, country or folk nature, e.g. "Bush Cricket", "Bush Music", etc.

New Zealand

New Zealand's bush is variable in appearance, but generally the term connotates densely forested areas, like this one around Lake Gunn in Fiordland.

In New Zealand, Bush primarily refers to areas of native trees rather than exotic forests, however the word is also used in the Australian sense of anywhere outside urban areas, encompassing grasslands as well as forests.[4]

The New Zealand usage of "bush" probably comes from the word "bosch", used by Dutch settlers in South Africa, where it meant uncultivated country.[4]

Areas with this type of land cover are found predominantly in the South Island, especially in the West Coast region stretching from Fiordland to Nelson, with the east coast having been deforested except for parts of Kaikoura and the Catlins. Much of Stewart Island/Rakiura is bush-covered. In the North Island, the largest areas of bush cover the main ranges stretching north-northeast from Wellington towards East Cape, notably including the Urewera Ranges, and the catchment of the Whanganui River. Significant stands remain in Northland and the ranges running south from the Coromandel Peninsula towards Ruapehu, and isolated remnants cap various volcanoes in Taranaki, the Waikato, the Bay of Plenty and the Hauraki Gulf.

From the word comes many phrases including:[5]

South Africa

In South Africa, the term has specific connotations of rural areas which are not open veld. Generally it refers to areas in the north of the country that would be called savanna. "Going to The Bush" often refers to going to a game park or game reserve. Areas most commonly referred to as The Bush are the Mpumalanga and Limpopo Lowveld, The Limpopo River Valley, northern KwaZulu-Natal or any other similar area of wilderness.

Alaska and Canada

Main article: The Bush (Alaska)

The Bush in Alaska is generally described as any community not "on the road system", making it accessible only by more elaborate transportation. Usage is similar in Canada; it is called la brousse, or colloquially le bois, in Canadian French.

Related terms

Icons of the Australian bush: bracken, corrugated iron, banksia, felt hat, billy, stockwhip and elastic-side boots.

The term "to go bush" has several similar meanings all connected with the supposed wildness of the bush. It can mean to revert to a feral nature (or to "go native"), and it can also mean to deliberately leave normal surroundings and live rough, with connotations of cutting off communication with the outside world – often as a means of evading capture or questioning by the police. The term bushwhacker is used in Australia to mean someone who spends his or her time in the bush.

Another related term used in Australia is "Sydney or the bush", which equates with such terms as "Hollywood or bust" to mean staking total success or failure on one high-risk event.[6][7] This usage appears in several Peanuts cartoons, causing Charlie Brown much confusion.[8]

In addition, many Vietnam War Veterans refer to the wilderness, jungle or border areas of the theatre of operations as "the bush", as opposed to towns, cities and military bases.

In New Zealand, "The Bush" is a nickname for the Wairarapa Bush provincial rugby team. The team was formed by an amalgamation of two earlier teams (Wairarapa and Bush), the latter of which represented an area on the boundaries of the Wairarapa and Hawke's Bay which was in former times known as Bush, due to its dense vegetation cover.

To bushwhack has two meanings, one is to cut through heavy brush and other vegetation to pass through tangled country: "We had to do quite a bit of bushwhacking today to clear the new trail." The other meaning is to hide in such areas and then attack unsuspecting passers-by: "We were bushwhacked by the bandits as we passed through their territory and they took all of our money and supplies."

In the United States, the term has a similar meaning, for example in minor league baseball, typically played in smaller cities, and sometimes derisively called "bush league" baseball.

See also


  1. Australian Government, Culture Portal (11 December 2007). "The Australian Bush". Retrieved 5 December 2009. The bush has an iconic status in Australian life and features strongly in any debate about national identity
  2. "GroceryChoice useless for those in the bush: Tuckey". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. 28 August 2008.
  3. "Australian painters". Commonwealth of Australia. 23 November 2007. Retrieved 5 November 2012.
  4. 1 2 Jock Phillips (17 September 2009). "The New Zealand bush – What is the bush? (The bush: dense native forest)". Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
  5. Orsman, H. W. (1999). The Dictionary of New Zealand English. Auckland: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558347-7.
  6. John McDonald (29 November 2002). "Sydney or the bush".
  7. Chris Baker (6 June 2006). "CONTEMPORARY AUSTRALIA 5. Sydney or the Bush?" (PDF). Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
  8. Charles M. Schulz (29 August 2012). "Peanuts".
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