By Julienne du Toit
Pix by Chris Marais
You’ll often see a donkey or two out here in the Karoo.
On a blistering summer day on a dusty back road between Hanover and the blue horizon, here comes a little cart sedately pulled along by a couple of donkeys in no particular rush. Neither are their driver and passengers. Everyone’s enjoying the ride.
They might not look like much, but Karoo donkeys are noble beasts. They’re probably the hardest workers in the Heartland. And they come from mystical stock.
Here’s some stuff about them you might not know.
- Donkeys are sentimental souls with a particular love for old-time country and western music, as sung by the likes of Hank Williams Jnr and Willie Nelson. So says donkey owner Magrieta Botha of Williston;
- Donkeys are very thin-skinned, literally and figuratively;
- The most expensive cheese in the world is made from donkey-milk in the Balkans. It sells for more than R10 000 a kilogram;
- All modern donkeys are related to the wild asses of North and East Africa. But these days there are more than 180 kinds of donkeys. The best known include the Ethiopian or Abyssinian, the Spanish Andalusian or Catalan, the Somali Ass, the longhaired donkey of French Poitou and the Mediterranean miniature;
- Donkeys thrive in drier areas;
- They have a fast walking speed and are very strong;
- They’re not terribly fond of cats and small dogs – which might explain why they dislike jackals and caracal cats;
- In Upington, there is a statue to a donkey, in honour of the huge contribution these animals have made to development in the region.