Donkey (Reaktion Books - Animal)
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Though donkeys have historically been among our most useful domesticated animals—from plowing fields to navigating difficult terrain—they have been much maligned in popular culture and given very little respect. So much so, that their perceived qualities of stupidity and stubbornness have made their way into the language of insult. But in Donkey, Jill Bough champions this humble creature, proving that after 10,000 years of domestication, this incredibly hard-working animal deserves our appreciation.
Bough reveals the animal’s historic significance in Ancient Egypt, where it was once highly regarded—even worshipped. However, this elevated status did not endure in Ancient Greece and Rome, where donkeys were denigrated, ridiculed, and abused. Since that time, donkeys have continued to be associated with the poorest and most marginalized in human societies. All that time and all over the world, donkeys continue to be used for innumerable tasks, and even today, donkeys are considered to be one of the best draught animals in developing nations, where they continue to make a vital contribution. Bough rounds out her account with a look at the variety of social, cultural, and religious meanings that donkeys have embodied, especially in literature and art.
With accounts that are both fascinating and touching, this cultural history of the donkey will inspire a new respect and admiration for this essential creature.
interest in mules and prejudice against them as an inferior hybrid of the horse. This viewpoint is clearly expressed, for instance, in Arthur Vernon’s The History and Romance of the Horse: There is no dignity about a mule. There is no charm, no gla mour, no spirit, no gallantry. There is something tragic about a mule. It is not a horse, nor is it an ass. Lower than a mongrel, it is just a hybrid, an energized hash, a fore-doomed slave and a biological travesty.17 This sort of attitude could
north-western districts of Western Australia when Kimberley horse disease, or ‘walkabout disease’, decimated the horse population and when the cattle tick destroyed thousands of cattle in the colony in the late 1800s/early 1900s. ‘Walkabout disease’, caused by the poisonous plant Crotalaria retusa, resulted in horses suffering chronic liver damage and severe nervous symptoms, including continuous aimless walking and banging into objects.26 Donkeys were affected by neither of these disasters. The
most difficult and dangerous paths.14 The strongest were used to carry cannon. There were 24 mules in each battery and these were divided into groups of six, the parts of a cannon divided between them. These parts were loaded very carefully, on their backs and on either side, secured with specially designed frames and harnesses. The Italians, as the Indians, held mules in high esteem, unlike many other nations – and the mule was to become their greatest ally during the war. Mules were an
combat missions and outlines the techniques of animal pack transport and for operating pack-animal units, claiming ‘to recapture some of the expertise and techniques that have been lost in the United States Army over the last 50 years’. The manual describes the characteristics of mules and donkeys as well as guidelines for their health and welfare. Donkeys, handlers are told, have a strong sense of survival. If they decide something is dangerous they will not do it – they are smart enough to know
Australia donkeyallbreedsaustralia.org/ The British Mule Society www.britishmulesociety.co.uk/ The American Donkey and Mule Society www.lovelongears.com/ The Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa (ATNESA) www.atnesa.org/ Donkey and Mule Society of New Zealand www.donkey-mule.org.nz/ Miniature Mediterranean Donkey Association www.miniature-donkey-assoc.com/links.htm Federation nationale anes et randonnees (FNAR) www.ane-et-rando.com/ Association Nacional de