Meet Australia’s Century-Old, 3,000-Mile Dingo Fence
We’ve been able to build some pretty crazy structures historically. Some crazy long structures. China’s Grand Canal measures over a thousand miles, and goes back many centuries. The first transatlantic cables measured a couple thousand miles back in the 19th century. And at the turn of the 20th century, Australia built a 3,000-mile barrier, which fenced off a good chunk of the continent.
The issue back then was one that we figured affects every Australian, from the moment of their birth: Dingoes kept attacking. The continent devoted huge tracts of land in the southeast to raising sheep, and dingoes from outside kept showing up in search of lamb kebab.
Most farmers worldwide would respond to such a problem by fencing in their property. Australian farmers did this too: The largest of these sheep stations is millions of acres and today has its own dog fence measuring 250 miles. But in addition to that, the government stepped in and erected one massive fence 3,500 miles long.
Some sources describe it as the longest manmade structure, ever. We do have undersea cables that are longer than that, and pipelines, but if we narrow our scope to “objects that do not transmit anything along themselves,” then yes, the Great Dingo Fence may be the longest object we have. The fence has breaks, for roads, but those have mechanisms built in to keep dingoes from crossing, so we say the fence runs continuously for its whole length.
It's worked very well at keeping dingoes out of the southeast of the country. This has been good for sheep, of course. It’s also been good for kangaroos. Kangaroo populations are so much higher thanks to living dingo-free that they’ve grazed much harder, leading to visibly less vegetation. This then led some of the soil to erode away more easily, putting the environment on the path to turning to a wasteland.
Maybe we should tear down that wall, some people have suggested. It’s always an option. Fences are easy to put up and easy to take down. As huge a deal as the Dingo Fence might sound, it was a reversible solution, compared to the other proposed plan: Hunt and poison all the country’s dingoes to extinction.
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Top image: Schutz/Wiki Commons