The Irish Donkey

By: Averil Swinfen

Publication Date: May 2004


The Irish Donkey by Averil Swinfen

The donkey is an integral part of the Irish landscape and tradition. This new, enlarged edition of a book originally published in 1969 traces the evolution of the species from its origins in Africa and central Asia to its arrival in Ireland in the early mediaeval period, and the multiple uses to which it was put in transport and agriculture.

The life of the donkey is described with tender insight drawn from the author’s own experiences, from breeding to welfare, whether as pets or beasts of burden. Its afterlife in literature, folklore and mythology is evoked by James Stephens, Rev. J.P. Mahaffy, R.L. Stevenson, G.K. Chesterton, Patricia Lynch, Patrick Kavanagh and others. The ass in the Bible, its cousin the mule and its relatives abroad also find a place, ranging from Somalia, Kenya, Iran and Andalusia to Kentucky and New Orleans, concluding with the legendary donkey of the 1915-16 Gallipoli Campaign.

Photographs by the author and by Bill Doyle, with a select bibliography, make up this popular history of one of Ireland’s most beloved animals.

‘Lady Averil writes passionately and often poetically about a subject she loves, the Irish Donkey. All in all a thoroughly good and educating read.’ – Customer review

‘A blend of biography, history and veterinary manual. The author obviously has great love for donkeys, and is very knowledgeable… There is a lovely sense of humour running through the text. A great little read.’ Customer review


AVERIL SWINFEN is author of Donkeys Galore (1976), Kilfenora Cathedral: A Short History (1986), Forgotten Stones: Ancient Church Sites of the Burren and Environs (1992) and The Irish Donkey. For twenty years she and her late husband ran the Donkey Stud Farm in County Clare.

The late BILL DOYLE, a Dubliner, was one of Ireland’s leading documentary and artistic photographers; he won international awards for his work in Japan, Germany, the UK and the USA. His other books include The Aran Islands: Another World (Lilliput) and Island Funeral (Veritas).

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Weight 0.5 kg
Dimensions 135 × 210 mm
Publication Date

May 2004


Paperback, 192pp