One of the best animal stories of the year was the story of Harriet the donkey.  Harriet, a female donkey, from Galway, Ireland, sings opera.  As an animal lover, this story makes me feel proud to be one percent Irish.  Martin Starton discovered Harriet’s talent when he heard her hew-haw, and he knew that that sounds that she made were more melodic than other donkeys.  He decided to take a video of Harriet singing and posted it to his Facebook page.  Ever since then, Harriet has become an internet star.  In fact, this special donkey has garnered more than 140,000 views on YouTube.  Not only is Harriet famous in Ireland, she is now well-known worldwide.

As Harriet sang and melted the hearts of millions, she also helped to break the stereotypes associated with donkeys.  In many languages, the term donkey is used to describe stubborn dumb or foolish people.  However, Harriet proved that donkeys are smart.  They have always been intelligent and also have the ability to learn many tasks.  Donkeys have served mankind, as working animals, for 5000 years.

Due to their intelligence and capacity to work, donkeys were revered by the Ancient Egyptians.  In the Dynasty IV era of Egypt, which took place between 2675 and 2565 BC, affluent Egyptians owned more than 1,000 donkeys.  They used these animals in agriculture and many other tasks.  The donkey was the symbol of the Egyptian sun god Ra.  In 2003, they found skeletons of donkeys either in the graves of King Narmer of King HorAha, buried in a section of high ranking.  This archeological discovery shows how important donkeys were to the Ancient Egyptians.

In the second millennium BC, donkeys were brought to Europe.  When Christopher Columbus landed at Hispaniola in 1495, during his second voyage, he brought the first donkeys to the Americas.

Not only have donkeys helped mankind in working tasks, they have also served humanity during wars.  During WWI, John Simpson Kilkpatrick and Richard Alexander used donkeys to salvage maimed soldiers at Gallipoli.  Matthew Fort, a British food writer, claims that donkeys were used in the Italian Army.  During the war in Afghanistan, donkeys carried explosives.  They still continue to assist the military in many other conflicts.

Just like in the past, they help mankind with labor tasks.  In the poorest countries, they help with agriculture.  In more affluent nations, they sire mules, guard sheep and quell anxious horses among many other tasks.  By providing rides for children and adults, they also help the tourism industry.  Riding donkeys also enables tourists to do their sightseeing in remote areas.


Depending on where they live, the life expectancy of a donkey varies.  In the poorest countries, where they serve as working donkeys, their lifespan is 12 to 15 years.  In more affluent nations, a donkeys life expectancy is 30 to 50 years.

Since donkeys are fascinating creatures, they are used in literature.  In Animal Farm, George Orwell’s 1951 satirical work, Benjamin is a donkey.  In Shrek, a film that was a box office success, Eddie Murphy brilliantly voiced the Donkey.

Donkeys are also a symbol of American politics.  During the nineteenth century, Thomas Nast, an artist, introduced the donkey as a mascot of the Democratic Party in Harper’s Weekly.  Today the donkey, with red, white and blue colors, represents the Democratic Party.

Since they are captivating animals, donkeys should be protected.  The Donkey Sanctuary, near Sidmouth, England, supports donkey welfare projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Mexico.  If you love Harriet’s story, perhaps you will consider making a contribution to help donkeys.

During this New Year, let’s used the story of Harriet to eradicate the stereotypes that we face in our daily lives.  If we work hard, with passion, we can break all the stereotypes.  Not only will we prove the naysayers wrong, we will also transform ourselves into trailblazers.