Australia in Kentucky

Australia in Kentucky

Kentucky Down Under is an attraction near Bowling Green, Kentucky that features Australian animals. At first, I thought it sounded really hokey and lame, but it ended up being one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. Here’s how we spent our day there…

First, we got loads of good information from the lady in the Visitor’s Center. She told us the best times to do most of the featured activities, marked everything out nicely for us on a map, etc.

After that, we wandered up the hill, bypassing the budgie area. The employee we spoke with recommended that we save that until we were on our way out, so we kept walking. At the top of the hill there was a large group of school children eating lunch. A peacock was wandering nearby, showing off his plumage. We took a few pics of the peacock (why, I don’t know, because I see them at our local zoo all the time), then kept walking down the path.

The first animal we saw was a dingo. I don’t know what I was expecting — maybe since they’re referred to as “wild Australian dogs,” I thought I would see a snarling beast the size of a wolf and twice as scary. Whatever it was that I’d been expecting to see, it certainly wasn’t this:


Honestly, he was just a cute little dog with a head that was slightly too big for his body. Not vicious, not threatening. Kind of cute/pitiful, really.

Anyway, from there we strolled down to the Bird Garden, where a dozen or so birds were hanging out in their pens. They were not at all flighty (pardon the pun) but seemed quite comfortable interacting with humans. We were able to get close to their cages without them retreating from view, and many of the birds were being vocal. The kookaburra, in particular, was skilled at carrying on a conversation. My son got him going and he wouldn’t shut up!


From there, we went to the aviary, where we were given a small cup of nectar to feed the rainbow lorikeets.  Once we got over the initial shock of having birds land on us, it was quite fun.

We finished feeding the rainbow lorikeets, then we had a few minutes to sit in the shade of a tree and hang out while we waited for the sheep herding demonstration to begin. The border collie’s name was Roxie and she was a very eager (but well behaved) dog. As soon as she got the command from her handler, she went flying across the field to round up the sheep. Roxie meant business!

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Following a very informative talk about sheep and dogs and the working relationship they have, we went to the wool shed, a large barn where various breeds of sheep were displayed for our enjoyment. There were (I think) nine different breeds. The Merino got most of the attention, as he is the sheep most commonly found in Australia. The Romney sheep kept giving me the eye.

He was the only sheep on the platform that stood up the whole entire time we were in there. And he was just a few feet away from me.

I got nervous after a while.


So again, we learned some fascinating things, some of which I won’t repeat in detail here. Suffice it to say that sheep have wool on every part of their body, and every part of their body is sheared. (Shorn?)

That gave us about an hour to kill, so we went to the Kangaroo area. We entered the pen and met our informative guide, who began talking to us about kangaroos. We walked down the path and when the guide stopped to talk to us some more, I was surprised to see a kangaroo lounging on the ground just beside him. I couldn’t believe that I was *this close* to a kangaroo, and there was nothing between us except air!


My mind officially boggled.

And honestly, I can’t even tell you what all the guide said because all I heard was, “You can come over and pet the kangaroo now, one family at a time.”

And I was all, “What?!?!? I get to pet a kangaroo?!?!?”

kangaroo tummy rub.jpg

I did. He was much softer than I thought he would be, and a lot calmer. He just laid there with this dopey, mostly-asleep look on his face. In fact, he reminded me quite a bit of my old fat tabby cat, Daisy. When I regained my coherence, I asked the guide if kangaroos are normally such docile creatures and he said that after they eat, they tend to just lie about and sleep most of the day, particularly when it’s hot outside.

Yep, just like my Daisy.

I am still so blown away by this experience that when anyone asks me how my Kentucky vacation was, I blurt out, “Ohmygosh! I got to pet kangaroos!” That usually confuses them, and they say something like, “But I thought you were going to Kentucky…”

After we quit gawking at the kangaroos, we saw what we thought were joeys. The guide explained that they were actually wallabies. I sensed an opportunity…

ME (to guide): Oooh! Knock knock.

Guide: (bewildered look)

ME (nodding head in encouragement): Knock knock!

Guide (reluctantly): Who’s there?

ME: Wallaby.

Guide (with dread): Wallaby who?

ME: Wallaby darned, it’s a marsupial joke!

My son looked like he wanted the earth to open and swallow him whole. The guide half-laughed, half-smirked, then tried to tell his own joke. I confess, I didn’t think his was anywhere near as clever as mine; in fact, I don’t remember it.

After we finished our tour through the kangaroo area, we went back to the wool shed for a second sheep-herding demonstration. I was so glad that we did because the presentation was completely different this time around, and it was less crowded. We had seen the first show with a school group and this time it was just four or five families. Both of my kids got picked to feed lambs.

In addition, we learned how to set a sheep — placing a sheep on its butt so that it sits still while being sheared.

And then, just as our time in the wool shed was coming to an end and the employees were talking about farm life, one of them brought in a cow. I was not expecting it at all and I think I gasped or made some sort of horrified exclamation. The employees started talking to us about milking the cow and inviting us to come up and do it. I had no desire to be anywhere close to that cow.

The employee sensed this and decided it would be fun to tease me about how if I lived on an Australian sheep farm I would rather let my family starve than provide them with fresh milk. I said, “You’re going to shame me into doing this, aren’t you?” Well, I can’t let a challenge go unanswered, so I got up and stood in the cow-milking line. When it was my turn, I reached down, gave the teat a pull and once I saw some milk hit the bottom of the bucket, I ran over to the sink to wash my hands. Thoroughly, I might add. Ick.

Our day at Kentucky Down Under ended with a tour of the cave there. (There are a lot of caves in Kentucky.)


Then, on the way out of the park, we stopped by to feed the budgies. They gave each of us a popsicle stick with peanut butter and bird seed on it. We walked in and the budgies flocked to us, landing on the sticks and gobbling up the seeds.

We left the park after that, completely exhausted but absolutely thrilled with the day’s adventure. I cannot recommend Kentucky Down Under enough!

Kentucky Down Under is located at 3700 L & N Turnpike Road Horse Cave KY 42749, about 45 miles northeast of Bowling Green. Telephone 270-786-1010. Park is open daily at 9:00 am. Closing hours vary by season.

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