Boyd Robert Horsbrugh, soldier and ornithologist, was the son of Captain Charles Bell Horsbrugh of the Second Central India Horse Regiment, and older brother of Charles Bethune Horsbrugh*. Both brothers resided in South Africa at the same time and the two have sometimes been confused.
Boyd received his education and training in England at Wellington College and the military academy at Sandhurst. He joined the British military in 1893 and served in Ceylon for two years. In 1895 he was transferred to the Army Service Corps and during 1898-1899 took part in the suppression of a rebellion in Sierra Leone. At this time he became a member of the Avicultural Society of Great Britain and subsequently wrote some articles for the Avicultural Magazine.
In October 1899 Horsbrugh arrived in South Africa to take part in the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). He was wounded in 1902 and invalided to England, and was awarded both the King’s and Queen’s medal, with five clasps. Later in 1902 he visited the United States, where he married Elizabeth R Mitchell. By 1906 he had returned to South Africa, as his postal address at this time was at the Transvaal Museum in Pretoria (where his brother had just been appointed). In 1908 he was promoted to major and transferred from Potchefstroom to Bloemfontein, but returned to England in 1909. He retired from the military in 1912 with the rank of major and settled in his home in Surrey, but was called up again following the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) to serve in the Army Service Corps. He was sent to France with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, but was invalided home in November 1915 and died the next year. He was a keen sportsman.
During his entire career Horsbrugh was interested in natural history, particularly in birds. He assembled a valuable collection of bird skins, mainly those of game birds and waterfowl, and in England was known for his success in breeding ducks and geese. He joined the British Ornithologist’s Union in 1904 and became a member of the South African Ornithologist’s Union in 1905. He was still a member of the latter in 1909. During 1912-1914 he imported collections, including live birds, from India and elsewhere and presented a valuable collection of Indian birds to the Zoological Society of London.
Horsbrugh most important contribution to southern African ornithology is his book, The game-birds and water-fowl of South Africa (London, 1912), illustrated by Claude Gibney Finch-Davies*. A sub-species of the Red-necked Falcon was named Falco chicquera horsbrughi in his honour, by Dr W.J.B. Gunning* and Austin Roberts* in 1911.