Recent Books

Donkey: The Mystique of Equus Asinus
By Michael Tobias and Jane Gray Morrison
A Dancing Star Foundation Book
San Francisco and Tulsa: Council Oak Books, 2006

Donkey examines the ecology, art history, culture and landscape of donkeys throughout the world and throughout time. This very special tribute to one of the great equine species combines deeply lyrical descriptions and first-person encounters with scientific data and rich illustrations. The book celebrates donkeys, while also pointing out risks to their future. The donkey (Equus asinus) is a species both ancient and mysterious and is called by many names: donkey, burro, wild jack, hinny and ass. Donkeys and their relative, the mule (a donkey/horse cross), have lived with humans for thousands of years.

References to mules date back at least 3,000 years. Biblical passages are rich with references to donkeys. In Homer's Odyssey a mule cart transports Princess Nausicaa to the seashore. Mohammed rode upon a mule into battle. The image of the infant Jesus and Mary led by Joseph on a donkey during their flight into Egypt was a favorite subject of Renaissance painters. By the time of Cervantes' epic, Don Quixote, the donkey was one of the most beloved animals in all of European literature. Cervantes' "Dapple" is stubborn and faithful, loving and intelligent. Mischievous, wild, gentle and uncannily in tune with the rhythms of the universe, the literary donkey is not unlike the real one.

Today, the humble and elegant donkey is prized, as in ancient times, for his/her loyalty, winsome regard for all things, remarkable personalities, sheer joy at Being. While more and more people are awaking to the magnificence of this species, and – in the U.S.– the realization that wild burros are part of America's biological heritage, concern over the treatment of donkeys has also put a spotlight on the maltreatment of equids throughout the world. The sanctuary movement has embraced donkeys, recognizing that among the nearly 40 million donkeys in the world, a sobering percentage of them suffer neglect and abuse, or the extreme hardship associated with the poverty of their human companions.


Illustrated throughout with photographs and artworks, the DSF book, Donkey considers the history, science, ecology, and lore of this creature, celebrating the spiritual bond between humans and donkeys, Donkey: The Mystique of Equus Asinus expresses the joy that these saintly creatures with big, furry ears bring to our lives.

See what critics are saying about Donkey:

Michael Thomas, an anthropologist and novelist:
"Don't Miss This Book! There are many great things about the book. The images – photos and artwork – are outstanding. There are lots of surprising facts about donkeys, mules and the history of civilization. There is beautiful writing – weaving between the personal and the universal. There is rigorous, careful scholarship, a treasure trove of careful citations to explore. The book has a majestic sweep and keen attention to detail and accuracy. Anyone of these aspects of the book would make it worth the modest price. But the truly wonderful thing about this book and the beast it describes, is that it makes you think. The book nudges the reader into unanticipated realms of philosophical reflection. It is deep and rich and wise, but like the burro, humble, sensually centered and honest. You are, for example, reading along –facts about donkeys – and then, all of a sudden, you get something like this: 'What do we really know about animals? What can we say with accuracy about ourselves?' Chew on that a while! The book has dozens of such moments, opportunities to step out of the crazy, violent, acquisitive struggles of our historical moment to consider some fundamentals of the mammalian and human condition. It's a great book about a great animal and our connection to the animal world. I own two burros and have long looked to them for counsel. This book is utterly accurate in its portrayal of the species. It's affectionate and respectful, happily missing the kitsch and anthropomorphism that most writers bring to books about their favorite animals. Don't miss it."

Jonathan Spaulding, Ph.D., Executive Director, Museum Of The American West, Autry National Center; author of Ansel Adams and the American Landscape:
"Humble, tough, gentle, and wise, donkeys have a lot to teach their old companions, the humans. In a book as solid and deep as the species it describes, Michael Tobias and Jane
Morrison have given us an allegory for our survival."

Dr. Marc Bekoff, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado; author of Minding Animals; Animal Passions and Beastly Virtues; The Emotional Lives of Animals, and editor of the Encyclopedia of Animal Behavior:
"Donkey is a GREAT book, a wonderful, delightful and fun read. With its provocative text and beautiful photographs, it conveys the enormous role in social and cultural history donkeys have played. Tobias and Morrison eloquently reveal how vulnerable, innocent, complex and compassionate these amazing beings are. I predict that donkeyphilia – the love of donkeys – is now safely here to stay as more and more people become acquainted with the rich lives of these remarkable equines. In fact, the next time somebody tells me I'm 'behaving like an ass' I plan to smile, wink, shrug my shoulders, and then confidently say, 'Thank you!'"

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