Donkey examines the ecology, art history, culture and landscape of donkeys throughout the world and throughout time. This very special tribute to one of the great equine species combines deeply lyrical descriptions and first-person encounters with scientific data and rich illustrations. The book celebrates donkeys, while also pointing out risks to their future. The donkey (Equus asinus) is a species both ancient and mysterious and is called by many names: donkey, burro, wild jack, hinny and ass. Donkeys and their relative, the mule (a donkey/horse cross), have lived with humans for thousands of years.
References to mules date back at least 3,000 years. Biblical passages are rich with references to donkeys. In Homer’s Odyssey a mule cart transports Princess Nausicaa to the seashore. Mohammed rode upon a mule into battle. The image of the infant Jesus and Mary led by Joseph on a donkey during their flight into Egypt was a favorite subject of Renaissance painters. By the time of Cervantes’ epic, Don Quixote, the donkey was one of the most beloved animals in all of European literature. Cervantes’ “Dapple” is stubborn and faithful, loving and intelligent. Mischievous, wild, gentle and uncannily in tune with the rhythms of the universe, the literary donkey is not unlike the real one.
Today, the humble and elegant donkey is prized, as in ancient times, for his/her loyalty, winsome regard for all things, remarkable personalities, sheer joy at Being. While more and more people are awaking to the magnificence of this species, and –in the U.S.- the realization that wild burros are part of America’s biological heritage, concerns over the treatment of donkeys has also put a spotlight on the maltreatment of equids throughout the world. The sanctuary movement has embraced donkeys, recognizing that among the nearly 40 million donkeys in the world, a sobering percentage of them suffer neglect and abuse, or the extreme hardship associated with the poverty of their human companions.