Some readers may think that they know one or two of these. However, we’re talking about the four-legged kind (equus asinus) and the no-legged kind. First, the no-legged kind.
As the sign says, a donkey is a simple old-fashioned water heater. Designs vary a good bit, but essentially it involves using the heat from a small fire to warm a tank of water, which is then fed to a shower or bath. The time involved in collecting a few sticks to get the fire going might seem well worth the effort after a long day in the saddle.
When it comes to the four-legged kind, some people will be surprised to learn that there are some five million of them in Australia, most of them feral, and living in remote arid areas. Donkeys were first imported into Australia as pack and haulage animals in the 1860s, due to the fact that horses became sick after eating various native plants, but donkeys were not affected.
When motorised transport began to be introduced in the early 1900s, some of these donkeys were released into the wild, and became feral. Female donkeys can produce a foal every year, and hence in good conditions, the population can increase rapidly. The majority of today’s feral donkeys are in the northern and western parts of the country. They can cause considerable damage to pastures, water holes and fences.