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The Packhorse Rant

Donkey Day

May 8

Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day

Today's Musings, History & Folklore

The Packhorse Rant

May 8th is World Donkey Day, a day to bring awareness this most used of packhorses, often in need of rescue and care.  There are over 41 million donkeys in the world today and rescue organizations all over the world. 

A packhorse or pack horse refers to a horsemuledonkey, or pony used to carry goods on its back, usually in sidebags or panniers. Typically packhorses are used to cross difficult terrain, where the absence of roads prevents the use of wheeled vehicles. Use of packhorses dates from the neolithic period to the present day. 

The donkey, has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years.  

A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny or jennet.  Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female horses to produce mules; the biological "reciprocal" of a mule, from a stallion and jenny as its parents instead, is called a hinny.  These crosses are sterile.

Although the etymological origins of the word donkey are disputed, by the 18th century, the word donkey gradually replaced ass, and jenny replaced she-ass, which is now considered archaic.   Other words used for the ass in English from this time include cuddy in Scotland, neddy in southwest England and dicky in the southeast. Moke is documented in the 19th century, and may be of Welsh or Gypsy origin.

The offspring of a zebra-donkey cross is called a zonkey, zebroid, zebrass, or zedonk

Packhorses were heavily used to transport goods and minerals in England from medieval times until the construction of the first turnpike roads and canals in the 18th century.  Most packhorses were Galloways, small, stocky horses named after the Scottish district where they were first bred. 

For more on the special love that Britain has had for the donkey, click the vintage illustration of a classic American children's game, Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

The Packhorse Rant
The Packhorse Rant

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