Each item in  your a life collection has its own story, its  own memory – the search, the day you bought it, visit it, who you were  with. I came up with a vague idea that of something that would be fun, the Alphabet’ Challenge. So Today’s letter is A as Asinus.

There is one place near Melrose, in the Scottish border where the animals inherited a fortune. There is a handsome Edwardian stone built stable with the donkeys, place called the Donkeys Sanctuary – Donkeys Heaven 🙂  _1100370

People probably first thought of donkeys  or stubborn or hard-working or charming. But the donkey’s relationship with the people civilisation is well-documented. (see slides below)

Let’s start with a general reflection on the donkeys. A donkey plays a central role in Christianity, with the Virgin Mary said to have ridden one to Bethlehem, and the very same animal is said, in a bit of medieval revisionist history, to have made the horseshoe-shaped indent on a rock at the Capela do Senhor da Pedra in Portugal.

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Long, long after that tale was told, Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, the spectacularly wealthy right-hand man of Henry VIII, rode a donkey to his boss’s opulent Field of the Cloth of Gold gathering in a not very successful attempt to appear modest. Several centuries before any of that, legend has it that the caliph who commissioned Iraq’s Great Mosque of Samarra rode a white donkey up to the top of the highest minaret, in a symbolic gesture, the meaning of which is clear across centuries and cultures.

df9b7ab13400aeb3bb78b87a2cd481a8The Bible also teaches us that God created animals. They aren’t the product of happenstance or fortuitous natural processes any more than humans are. Genesis 1:24-25 says God created the animals, from the beasts of the earth to the creeping insects. The bible also arranges donkey issues. Donkey as the equidae an animal could not be eaten. Lost belonged to surround care until you can find the owner, was not allowed him to harness the stronger animal. In a case of theft donkey thief,he was obliged to pay double the amount of the stolen pieces (Exodus 23). That was precious!

God also reveals animal intelligence through the unusual encounter of Balaam with his donkey (Num. 22:21-33). In that incident, the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way and moved aside. Balaam became angry with the donkey because it wouldn’t obey him. Yet the Angel of the Lord credited the donkey’s quick thinking for Balaam’s deliverance. He declared, “The donkey saw me and turned aside from me these three times. If she had not turned aside from me, I would surely have killed you” (v. 33). The donkey recognised the danger and made a decision to get out of the way of the Angel, whom Balaam couldn’t even see. Furthermore, we have all seen animals use tools to get food. They don’t need to use tools to eat. They have sources that don’t require the use of tools, but they have the reasoning capacity to know that a tool will help them get food.

The incident of Balaam and his donkey brings into focus another insight about animals. It reveals that it is possible for animals to see angels (Num. 22:21-33). In that incident, Balaam was spared death at the hands of the Angel of the Lord because Balaam’s donkey “turned aside” when it saw the angel. The text does not say the Angel of the Lord revealed his presence to the donkey. It tells us simply that the donkey saw the Angel. Humans see angels when the angels want to reveal themselves. The donkey saw the Angel of the Lord without his self-revelation. In fact, judging from  Angel’s comments to Balaam (see v. 33), the donkey was actually acting contrary to Angel intentions.  This conclusion gains further support when we see that the Lord had to empower the donkey to speak (v. 28). If Moses recognised the need to tell the reader the Lord empowered the donkey to speak, he could just as easily have said the Lord enabled the donkey to see the Angel of the Lord. Yet, he doesn’t tell us that. Drawing from this entire biblical witness, we can make some important conclusions about how to think about donkeys and all animals.

It’s not only the Christianity, the donkey’s relationship with the Egyptian civilisation is well-documented.donkeyinancientegyptpaintingcirca1298BCFor example, murals in the tomb of the New Kingdom Pharaoh Tutankhamun illustrate nobles participating in a wild ass hunt. However, the real importance of the donkey relates to its use as a pack animal. Donkeys are desert-adapted and can carry heavy loads through arid lands allowing pastoralists to move their households with their herds. In addition, donkeys proved ideal for the transport of food and trade goods throughout Africa and Asia.CharlesPrendergast-DonkeyWithBasketOfFlowers-1917

Archaeological possessed the evidence used to identify domesticated donkeys includes changes in body morphology. The earliest domesticated donkey bones identified archaeologically date to 4600-4000 BC, at the site of El-Omari, a predynastic Maadi site in Upper Egypt near Cairo. Articulated donkey skeletons have been found buried in special tombs within the cemeteries of several predynastic sites, including Abydos (ca. 3000 BC) and Tarkhan (ca. 2850 BC). Donkey bones also have been discovered at sites in Syria, Iran and Iraq between 2800-2500 BC. The site of Uan Muhuggiag in Libya has domestic donkey bones dated to ~3000 years ago. A 2008 study (Rossel et al.) examined 10 donkey skeletons buried at the predynastic site of Abydos (about ca 3000 BC). The burials were in three purposefully constructed brick tombs adjacent to the cult enclosure of an early (so far unnamed) Egyptian king. The Mediterranean and West Asia are excellent places for donkeys, which are like horses but smaller. Donkeys quickly became very popular in West Asia and all around the Mediterranean. Donkeys are strong, so they can carry heavy loads, but they are small so they don’t need as much to eat as cattle or horses do. And donkeys have good digestion. They’re not as delicate as horses, and they can eat practically anything.

In this carving from a Hindu temple in medieval India, the donkey is about to bray to announce the birth of Krishna, but Vasudeva, who is sneaking Krishna to safety in a basket, begs the donkey to be quiet so he won’t wake up the prison guards (compare this story to the birth of Jesus).

One of the most extraordinary places to view donkeys is Morocco.

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Because cars cannot traverse the narrow streets of the old city, donkeys still serve the same function they did when the city was founded in the early Middle Ages: delivering goods.The lovable pack animals are such a part of the social fabric that they are unremarkable to residents. The donkeys in Marrocco mostly exist to transport goods, in the case of the Leather Tannery they contribute urine to an ancient preparation for animal hides.

Another part of the donkeys story is put into the hands of artists ( below The Green Donkey by Chagall based on nostalgic memories of his Russian homeland),who were inspired by the donkey expressed their observations in poems, newspaper columns and paintings.


Yes, not only saints have much sympathy for the donkey, but also many artists were under his spell. In their work they drew attention to donkey positive qualities.


Idiot Dostoevsky is already one of them, as a “a fairy tale” for adults. In the title role is a young man – Prince Myshkin. His appreciation for the donkey Dostoyevsky put in the mouth of an eccentric character: “In Switzerland woke me screaming donkey in the town square.

Donkey terribly surprised me and that is why I loved, and yet in my head as if everything is cleared up (…). Since then, terribly like donkeys. I have them even strange sympathy. I started by not asking because I did not see them before, and immediately purposed belief that it is an extremely useful animal, industrious, strong, patient, cheap, durable and therefore donkey all Switzerland I began suddenly to please, so that passed the previous sadness. (…) I am ready to defend Donkey, the donkey is a good and useful man “. In the novel, the central character, a very intelligent person, unappreciated and good, has been compiled with the despised donkey. Idiot – says about this animal, but about people who wholeheartedly give too many others.

shrek_donkeyThose who do not know who was Igor Dostoyevsky maybe the donkey from “Shrek” – will be closed. Named ‘Donkey,’ is one of the most beloved computer-animated sidekicks of all of time.He is known for his hyperactive (and sometimes annoying but always endearing) demeanour, his idle chatter, and of course, his all-consuming love of waffles. The friendly donkey with a dog of appearance charmed crowds of movie-goers.

Humans have always had the compulsion to poke fun of these practical but inelegant creatures, with Egyptian, Greek, and Byzantine art portraying donkeys in humorous contrast to more noble horses. Yet, because of (rather than in spite of) their humble existence, donkeys have been used for political, artistic and religious means.

Did you hear this story about Sunset over the Adriatic?

Boronali_ImpressionOne hundred and six years ago at the annual Paris exhibition of the Society of Independent Artists (“Salon des Independants”, Paris, 1910), there was a picture of a certain Joachim Rafael Boronali “Sunset over the Adriatic”.1910donkeyart_fb (1)Within a few days, the picture was quite a success with the public. Then the artistic Paris learned that the painting was “written,” by donkey, to whose tail a brush was tied. The painting “Sunset over the Adriatic” won praise from critics when it was displayed at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in March 1910. It was said to be the work of J.R. Boronali, the proponent of a new school of painting called “excessivism”. One collector offered to buy the work for 400 francs. But after a few days, the truth was revealed.

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Boronali was actually a donkey named Lolo who had “painted” by having a brush tied to his tail. The stunt was dreamed up by art critic Roland Dorgelès as a way to play a joke on his Impressionist painter friends.

Please remember, part of the human calling is to help them fulfil this mandate in a way that enables them to reach their full potential in creation. They not only enrich our lives. They point to the creator of all things. Animals are not only worthy of our respect.

They deserve it.


Just in case if you would like to help  or visit or just to love donkeys


Beatius est magis dare, quam accipere

Be happy

Be grateful




About conservationwithella

Hello, I'm Ella, Art on Paper Conservator & Preservation Manager at Glasgow University Archives and Special Collections. This blog is a walk through my daily life, work, arts & crafts history, my discovery that everything in my life is enough to be a continuous source of reflection. I started blogging to entertain myself but I hope you enjoy it too. I'm sure you agree, that Life without art is nothing. :)

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