"Bushranger" is a term from Australian history. A bushranger is an outlaw or robber who lived in the late 18th century or 19th century and preyed upon Aborigines, miners and settlers, among others, in the sparsely populated areas of the Australian countryside known as the outback or bush. Acting alone or in small gangs, bushrangers were criminals who engaged in murder, robbery and rape. Most often, though, bushrangers specialized in the robbery of small settlements, banks or stagecoaches.
Originally, "bushranger" just referred to a person who had the skills needed to survive in the Australian bush. Over time, the word came instead to refer only to the British convicts who escaped from one of the early Australian penal colonies and used the relatively uninhabited areas of the outback to hide from authorities. In order to survive, the escapees stole from travelers and farmers in remote communities because their survival skills were limited, and they often died of exposure, starvation or sickness. John Caesar, who was shot and killed by a settler in 1796, is thought to have been the first of these convict bushrangers.
Until sometime in the 1850s, bushrangers were almost entirely escaped British convicts. During the 1850s and 1860s, there was a gold rush in Australia that gave bushrangers easy access to large sums of wealth that could be quickly converted to cash. Gold settlements usually were extremely isolated, and the police force had been greatly diminished because many of its members left to prospect for gold, so there was an upsurge in the number of bushrangers. It is estimated there were between several hundred and 2,000 bushrangers operating in the period from the 1850s through the 1880s. This era is considered to be the heyday of the bushranger.
With the discovery of gold, escaped convicts from Britain’s penal colonies ceased to be the only type of bushrangers. Instead, after the time of the gold rush, a bushranger was usually a native-born Australian. Often, a bushranger was the son of poor settlers or squatters who saw an opportunity for easy wealth in a criminal life of ambushing gold shipments, robbing travelers and raiding settlers near the remote gold towns.
This new breed of bushranger was much more at home in the bush than an escaped convict, so survival in the countryside was not problematic. The 1880s saw the last of the bushrangers. Most bushrangers were either hanged or shot by the police or otherwise died violently at a young age.