Jan 24, 2013

Donkeys Galore

by Averil Swinfen

I think this is the first book I ever read that focused solely on donkeys. The author describes her work in establishing a donkey stud farm in Ireland.  A lot of it is narrative- about how they became interested in donkeys, the work in breeding and raising them, arrangements in selling them, seeking public attention to become part of the tourist trade, visits from celebrities, notable donkeys they've had (including a rare set of twins) and so forth. It has a very old-fashioned, formal writing style that even while being humorous manages to sound a little dry. So I admit I didn't enjoy the narrative parts as much as the factual ones, and in spite of the author continually remarking upon the charm of the animals, that never really came through for me. I did find it interesting to read about how difficult it is to keep donkeys in good health in cold, wet places because they normally come from arid, dry regions and easily catch chills or have problems with their feet in the damp. In a few instances it was pointed out how different donkeys actually are from their relatives, horses- they require a different diet, and their body conformation gives them their great strength (for their size). Thus, when the author helped establish a donkey society in Ireland and got a donkey class accepted into a prominent horse show, she was dismayed that donkeys were often judged on physical points more appropriate for horses, and worried that continued selection for those traits would actually harm the donkey stock and weaken them for the work they were intended! The end of the book wraps up with a plea to kindness for all animals, and for people to realize that donkeys don't deserve the reputation they've gathered for being dull and stubborn. There's lots of lively characters and entertaining events in this book, but not quite enough that I think I'll ever read it again.

Rating: 3/5 ........ 136 pages, 1976

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