Jacket Image

Enlarge Image

190 × 135 × 13 mm
200 pages
99 illustrations, 68 in colour
01 Jun 2011

Donkey Jill Bough

From giving rides to children at the British seaside to pulling a plough in the poorest of countries, donkeys have served humans faithfully since the time of their domestication more than 10,000 years ago. Despite the critical role that they have played throughout human history, however, donkeys have often received little respect.

Donkey follows the story of this incredibly hard-working animal. Jill Bough reveals the animal's historic significance in Ancient Egypt where they were once highly regarded and even worshipped. However, this elevated status did not endure in Ancient Greece and Rome, where donkeys were denigrated, ridiculed and abused. Since this time, donkeys have continued to be associated with the poorest and most marginalized in human societies. Throughout the world, donkeys have been used for innumerable tasks: the main ones being as pack animals during times of peace and war, and to breed mules. Even today, donkeys are considered to be one of the best draught animals in third world countries, where they continue to make a vital contribution.

Jill Bough goes beyond the practical uses of the animal by exploring a variety of social, cultural and religious meanings that the donkey has embodied, especially its symbolic representations in Western literature and art. The story of the donkey makes an important addition to the complex and contradictory history of human and non-human animal relationships. With accounts that are both fascinating and touching, this book will be ideal for anyone with an admiration of the donkey or who is interested by animals in history.

‘The latest addition to Reaktion's animal series surely one of the most successful publishing ventures of recent years reveals the donkey, generally considered beneath notice, to be a creature of the utmost fascination.’ — The Independent

‘Jill Bough's impassioned and sympathetic arguments, supported by thought-provoking and endearing illustrations, underline how much better donkeys deserve.’ — TLS

‘The story of the donkey and mule in human cultures will be read with interest and fascination but also with poignancy. The book is profusely illustrated with photographs and colour reproductions of a great variety of paintings.’ — Archives of Natural History

‘Jill Bough . . . tries to spark some respect for a hard-working beast that has carried the freight for 10,000 years of domestication, and still does the heavy lifting in many places.’ — Toronto Star

‘Donkey is concise, informative and profusely illustrated. Within its pages Jill Bough describes the origins and natural history of donkeys, their domestication in the old and new worlds, use in warfare, their place in religion and mythology, and their representation in art and literature.’ — Vegan Views

Show all

Jill Bough is a Conjoint Academic in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Newcastle, NSW, Australia. She has published articles about the history of the donkey in Australian Zoologist (2006) and the Encyclopedia of Animal Rights and Animal Welfare (2009).


1. Equus asinas: Origins, Domestication, Breeds and Characteristics
2. Donkeys in Human History, Mythology and Religion
3. Donkeys and Mules Colonize the Americas, Australia and South Africa
4. Donkeys and Mules at War
5. Donkeys in Literature, Film and Art

Select Bibliography
Associations and Websites
Photo Acknowledgements