When you hear the world donkey, you may conjure up two images depending on your age. If, like me, you were born at the end of the 20th century you may imagine Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong looks nothing like a donkey and sure doesn’t act like one (maybe because he’s a gorilla)! The other type of donkey you may imagine is that from Shrek. Donkey in Shrek does look like a donkey and has some mannerisms that resemble a donkey.
The animal known as ‘donkey’ is part of the Horse family. It has been domesticated and used by humans for at least 5,000 years. Donkeys are well known for being a mode of transport; from Mary to young children, humans have used donkeys to get from point A to point B. From as early as 4000 BC, donkeys were also used to carry heavy goods. They are thought to have been used first in Egypt and from there, they have spread all over the world.
Today, they are mostly found in under-developed countries and are kept for breeding, pets and for trade. There are approximately 40 million of them worldwide, and they can live up to 50 years! ‘Donkey’ is a relatively new name for the species. They were (and still are by some) called an Ass. A Jackass originally meant a male donkey. The first recorded use of the world donkey can be found in 1785 and from then it has become the more common name for Equus africanus asinus.
Donkeys were put to exceptional use in World War One. Two stretcher bearers (John Simpson Kirkpatrick and Richard Alexander Henderson) used donkeys as a means of rescuing fallen comrades in battle. They were also used by the Italian army during the war. The donkeys would carry the Italians battle packs and, if rations were short, they could be used as a source of food. Donkeys are also considered a delicacy in China where they are used to make specialised dishes. The Guo Li Zhuang restaurants also serve donkey genitals as part of their menu! Finally, the hide of the animal is boiled and used as part of a traditional Chinese medicine.