Len Knight’s life was always strongly connected to animals, including ostriches. It was not unusual to see uncommon animals at the Knight’s farm over the years.​

Family and friends are mourning the death of one of the Mitchell Shire’s most colourful characters, Len Knight.

Mr Knight, 86, an entrepreneur who lived an interesting life through his long and varied association with animals, died on February 15 after complications from a fall.

Born John Leonard Knight on June 20, 1936, at Kilmore Hospital, he was eldest of five children Pattie, Stan, Graham and Brian, born to Sylvie and Percy Knight.

Len Knight led an interesting life, with many tales to tell. ​

Mr Knight went to school at Wandong before finishing at age 13 to join the work force. He grew up on a property between Wandong and Kilmore, and then Broadford.

As a teenager, he worked with horses, sheep and cattle, grew potatoes and sold rabbit skin and cockatoos.

Throughout his working life, he had stints at Broadford’s wool scourers, paper mill, and the railways.

He also worked in forestry for many years, in both New Zealand and Australia, including manning the Mt Hickey fire tower during summer for six years.

Mr Knight met his wife Geraldine when she visited Knights Riding School – he was her ‘Knight in shining armour’ when he rescued her from a bolting horse.

Mr Knight’s son Adam said his father’s love of animals knew no bounds – he was a snake catcher, supplying venom to Sir Eric Worrell, the chief supplier of snake venom to the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories.

“He is acknowledged as the person who reignited the ostrich industry, he was instrumental in the emu industry and was one of the first people to breed and market llamas and alpacas,” Adam said.

“In the mid-70s, Dad went over to South Australia and brought the last remaining wild ostriches that had been left to roam where there was a major ostrich farm set up to supply the fashion industry with feathers and leather but faltered after the depression. He took ostriches from $200 each to $250,000 a pair.”

In 1976, Mr Knight purchased a donkey, named Novington Benjamin, from England for $6000, before travelling to remote South Australia and the Northern Territory to purchase truckloads of wild camels and donkeys.

The grey donkeys were then crossed with Novington Benjamin and their colourful offspring sold for thousands of dollars.

“All the coloured donkeys now prevalent in Australia are mostly the decedents of Novington Benjamin,” Adam said.

“It was those station trips where my father introduced me to Indigenous culture, whom he formed many great friendships.”

Adam, a Tallarook-based art consultant who specialises in Indigenous artwork, has strong ties to various Indigenous communities throughout Australia.

“My dad had relationships with Aboriginals from before I was born and as long as I can remember,” he said.

“He had a special bond and made many great friendships, from Lake Tyers, Jacksons Track, central Australia, the Kimberley and everywhere in between.

“Tjakamarra, his skin name, was given to my father by his friend [Indigenous artist] Clifford Possum Tjapaltjarri – it meant brother. He was selected by the Possum family to be a pall bearer at Clifford’s funeral, a great honour he very much valued.”

Mr Knight featured in the media many times over the years – from when he bred an unusual foal that was shot from the Hume Freeway to winning a bet to ride a donkey over the Princess Bridge in the Melbourne.

While he loved farm animals and was a regular supplier to the Royal Melbourne Show’s animal nursery for many years, his farm also housed more exotic animals at times – tigers, dingoes, water buffalo and monkeys, to name a few.

“Mum and Dad looked after Bengal Tigers for circus companies,” Adam said.

“Once mum’s tiger Zita got sick, mum called the vet and said she had a sick cat but it was too big to bring in. The vet attended our house and nearly fell over.

“It took four people to hold her down for the needle as she was running around our lounge room.”

Adam said there was a long list of stories relating to his father and animals.

“I saw my Dad get bashed by a monkey who was in season, kicked in the head by a horse where his teeth came through his bottom gum, kicked by an ostrich, and bitten by a Tiger snake,” he said.

Away from the farm, Mr Knight also had a love for travelling and visited much of Europe, with his favourite places Scotland and Sri Lanka.

He is survived by his wife Geraldine, son Adam, daughter-in-law Amanda, grandchildren Halley, Jacob, Sara, Amelia and Audrey and great grand daughter Stella.

A memorial service for Mr Knight will be at his home at 123 Main Road, Tallarook, on Thursday.