For the love of Donkeys

...and on the eighth day God created the horse in perfect image, to romp, graze, gallop, play and make manure wherever it darn well pleases, in divine grace.

The “Equidae” Family has several different species contained in the genre.

The horse comprises E. caballus and E. przewalski, and these are our domestic horsey friends, while E. grevyi, E. quagga, and E. zebra comprise the black and white striped Zebra family.

The ass comes in two species, E hemionus, or onager, also known as the Asiastic ass, and the E. asinu, the common donkey. (1)

The donkey has a dignified and respectable past.

The donkey was one of the few animals, along with the Ox, to witness the birth of Jesus in the manger, (the Ox and Ass kept time with the Little Drummer Boy) and the donkey was also present in part of the story leading up to Jesus’ death.

It is said that burros have the sign of the Christ, with a dorsal stripe, accompanied by a cross-stitch stripe, that appears like the Holy Cross on their backs; it’s true, look for yourself next time.

Perhaps it is in memory of our Lord, a very honorable charge to bear.

Wild asses are mentioned as "quenching their thirst," in Psalm 104.

Donkeys have been used as draught animals since 4,000 BC, and they were mostly associated with the Middle and Near East. (2)

Queen Cleopatra (69- 30 BC) is said to have bathed in the mare’s milk of wild donkeys, to retain her youthful beauty.

Poncho and Lefty rode donkeys down in Mexico when they escaped from the Federales.

The imaginary donkey friend, Eeyore, comes to life in the hundred-acre-wood, with Christopher Robin and friends, in the Winnie-the Pooh children’s books. (3)

Eeyore is always portrayed as tired and slow, seldom speaking, but always there with his gentle, loving presence.

The kind and sweet Winnie-the-Pooh animals are favorites of mine and my family; my sister Arlene still has her childhood beanbag Eeyore donkey stuffed toy, the beans long since fallen out, many decades ago.

Eeyore is tucked safely away in one of Arlene’s antique trunks, and once every decade or so he is brought out, ever-loved, as always.

Black and white paintings of donkey art adorn the walls of Arlene’s house, and she owned one once-upon-a-time, down in Texas; they are a favorite of hers.

The Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson (1850-1894), penned “Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes,” in the year 1879, as he recounted his experiences going cross-country with the animal.

While the horse species has a wide variety of animals to choose from, and they continue to propagate, some of the species of wild asses are endangered

The Onager, also known as the Kulan in Mongolia, the Kiang in Tibet, and the Ghorkhar in India, is on the endangered list for extinction. (4)

Some wild asses have gone extinct, such as the E. Hemionus hemippus, aka the Syrian wild ass.

Donkeys arrived in Europe early on in history, but were verbally and physically abused and made fun of, due to their extremely long ears and sometimes sad appearance.

Worldwide donkey populations are on the decline, since they are seldom used now for farming, traveling or draught work.

It is not just the donkey itself that is in danger of extinction, it is entire breeds/species of donkeys.

They are, however, making a slight comeback being used to haul belongings and backpacks for hikers, walkers or tourists, in certain areas of the world.

In America, donkeys are simply pets or “pasture ornaments,” and “mini-donks” are very popular as pets for children.

Mini-donks are the cutest things walking, and their silver-dollar-sized feet just add to the package of the overall-ya-just-wanna-squeeze-‘em-deal. When they bray, it sounds like little wind-up toys playing and you can’t say “no” when they beg for treats.

Sometimes donkeys are used as living lawn mowers, out in the country, for yard maintenance

Donkeys are still used for work in North Africa, but even there, they are on the decline.

France used to boast of a wide variety of donkey breeds, and they came in all sizes from 9.3HH up to 15.3HH, and all varieties of colors. (5)

This has diminished in recent years, as seen with the Pyrenean and Poitou breeds now numbering only around 300 animals each, respectively.

The French Poitou is a very attractive, rather large donkey, with good, strong legs and a very shaggy haircoat that comes in dark brown.

They look like they could be anyone’s friend, so gentle and sweet.

They range in size from 13.3 HH to 15.1HH. (6)

The French Champion Poitou donkey mare, “Jolie,” which means “pretty” in English, is owned by the Jean-Pierre Mariot Family, and she is as large as any draft pony, coming in at 970 pounds. (7)

The Poitou is sought after because of its unique, attractive, chocolate, shaggy appearance, and they make good quality studs when producing mules.

Donkeys can be bought at very reasonable prices nowadays, and also adopted from the many sanctuaries that have sprung up in America and Europe.

Shelter donkeys make great additions at the barnyard, and they have a lot of love to give.

As always, geld, geld, geld, and provide a clean shelter, plenty of fresh water and good hay. Lots of lovin' from you doesn't hurt, either, and you will be a better person for it - - - for the love of donkeys.

So long for now.

Leaving you to contemplate this other type of equine species to the immortal words of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, “Happy Trails to You.”

1,2, 4-7: “Horses,” by Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Jean-Louis Gouraud

3: “Winnie-the-Pooh,” c. 1926, “The House at Pooh Corners,” c. 1928, both by A.A. Milne