Donkeys, horses, lessons in patience

Published in About Animals

Donkeys have served humankind since time immemorial. The donkey is a symbol of Dalmatia.

Jana and Pano: unconditional love. Jana and Pano: unconditional love. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

From prized to despised

Some four thousand years ago in the Bronze Age, donkeys were specially prized. In ancient times kings and the elite rode on donkeys. In the Christian gospels, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. The common interpretation of this is that such a lowly form of transport was a sign of His humble status. However, another, possibly more correct version based on the Hebrew text (which is older than the Greek version followed by the Evangelists) suggests that the rider of a donkey would be a significant personage such as a king, who, despite enjoying high status among men, would be imbued with humility before God. In Ugant on the Syrian coast 'gods and kings' were said to ride donkeys using silver and gold reins.

Working donkey in Pitve with Ivo Radonić in the 1980s

Apart from their ceremonial role, donkeys were the main form of transport for people and goods for the two thousand-odd years before horses were tamed to take on some of their roles. Along with mules, which are bred by crossing a male donkey, known as a jack, with a female horse (mare), donkeys have remained important transporters almost up to the present day, although mechanized transport made them redundant in many countries. On Hvar, a few farmers have continued to use donkeys or mules for carrying grapes, olives and farming materials, especially on the island's steepest slopes.

Mule with Jakov Franičević transporting grapes in Pitve, 2009. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Humans have not always been kind to donkeys. Seen as somewhere between slaves and robots, working animals have been mistreated and neglected by brutal, irresponsible owners. Nowadays on Hvar some farmers keep donkeys partly for their work, but also as a source of meat.

Donkey celebration in Jelsa

Donkey tribute by Ivan Škrmeta. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Working animals, whether donkeys, mules, horses or dogs, who have served their owners well over the years should be respected, cherished and nurtured to the end of their lives. Ivan Škrmeta from Jelsa was one who recognised this and created a beautiful statue of a donkey which now graces Jelsa's renovated waterfront. It has proved a big hit with locals and visitors, with its back polished to a smooth sheen by little and big people sitting on it.

In praise of the donkey. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Jana: dancer, yoga teacher, animal saviour

It was the thought that a young donkey was destined to be slaughtered for meat that inspired Jana Appleyard to save it and give it a new and very different kind of life.

Jana and Pano, her first rescue. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Jana is a yoga teacher who left the United Kingdom to settle in Dol on Hvar Island some years ago. A former dancer, she had no previous experience of keeping large animals, but she set about learning at speed. Pano, her original rescue donkey, was quickly joined by his special friend Lily Rose, followed by his half-sister Lula. 

The three donkey friends, with fly deterrent fringes. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

And then there was Zena the horse. Pano was jealous of her at first, but quickly came to accept her under Jana's direction.

Zena and her donkey friends. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

It also didn't take long for the big animals to be joined by a selection of rescue cats and kittens.

The cats and kittens, July 2019. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission

Despite their initial surprise and even scepticism that anyone should expend so much time, energy and money on caring for animals, well-wishers among the villagers helped Jana create a compound to keep the animals secure and sheltered, and allowed her to go across their fields at the end of their daily walk. The daily walk extended out into the woodlands above Dol and round a large circuit, returning through the village to the home base. Pano and his friends were able to sample the natural culinary delights which are still abundant on the island, a special treat being the wild carob, which used to be an important cash crop, but is now largely left on the trees. The animals greatly appreciate this delicious gift!

Happiness: foraging in the woods. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The sight of Jana and her animals walking around is now a familiar sight and accepted tradition in Dol, and her fame has spread quite far and wide. As time has gone on, she has often been joined by volunteers who enjoy walking through Hvar's beautiful countryside in the company of Jana and her four-legged friends.

On a walk through the countryside. Photo: Vivian Grisogono.

In the main, Jana's animals were nervous and shy when they first came to her, especially Zena the horse. Over time, Jana has been helping them to lose their fear of humans and to gain confidence, as well as training Pano and Zena in particular in groundwork. A milestone was reached in August 2019 when Zena finally accepted a saddle and allowed special friend Raffaella to ride her!

Zena gives Raffaella a ride. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission

In the autumn of 2019, Jana and her four-legged friends moved up to new winter quarters on the top of the island, the high point called Sveti Nikola (St. Nicholas), some 625 metres above sea level. There they joined a few four-legged companions who are in permanent residence, including Romeo, who struck up an instant friendship with Pano.

Jana with Romeo, Pano's new friend. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission

The daily walks now encompassed new spectacular views, with the added advantage that there is no road traffic to contend with.

Spectacular views from the top of the island. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission

Looking after such large animals is hard work, expensive, time-consuming, and requires careful organization. Their main foodstuff is hay, which has to be brought over from the mainland in bulk and delivered to the village. From the village it is transported to the animal compound by car and trailer, involving numerous trips. The waste produced by the animals has to be collected up regularly: this is preserved for use as fertilizer at a later stage, so it is not wasted. In summer, the animals have special fringed headgear and stockings for their legs to protect against flies and other biting insects. The animals are brushed regularly, and their hooves are checked and looked after. Stari Grad vet Prosper Vlahović deals with any health problems, as well as neutering to prevent unwanted pregnancies.

Mucking out, a heavy but worthwhile task. Photo: Vivian Grisogono
Jana bringing in the drinking water. Photo. Vivian Grisogono

Apart from the routine day-to-day tasks of looking after the animals' basic needs, there is the occasional mishap, notably when the animals have managed to escape from their compound and run off into the countryside. On one such occasion in the early days, Jana spent hours looking for them, and then several more leading the donkeys back home, with an extra bit of trauma when they stood stock still in the middle of the main road, obstinately refusing to budge. Zena the horse meanwhile had run off in a panic towards the Stari Grad ferry port, and was very relieved when Jana appeared after a tip-off and led her back to the safety of her own home. Needless to say, Jana was exhausted by the whole experience.

Unwavering love. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

Unconditional love

Despite the effort and occasional hardships involved, Jana is unwavering in her love of her animals. By her own account, they have taught her patience.

Zena partnering yoga. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission

She has shared her life with them, including her yoga practices.

Yoga practice with Lily-Rose. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission
Pano supervising yoga practice. Photo: Pano's Facebook page, with permission

The greatest benefit is undoubtedly the unconditional love with which they reward her for her care. With hard work and unremitting devotion to her task, Jana has created a rare bond with the animals, giving them a new role in their relationships with the humans around them. 

Requited love. Photo: Vivian Grisogono

The love Jana has devoted to her menagerie is unprecedented in her village, indeed on the whole island. People have responded with a mixed response of incredulity or admiration - and a new level of awareness. Many have been impressed, not least because visitors and tourists so obviously enjoy seeing these happy animals in action. Jana has shown that humane treatment of animals brings untold benefits. Her example has set new standards, and - hopefully - stopped at least a few owners from treating their donkeys and horses carelessly or cruelly.

© Vivian Grisogono 2019

Further information:

Celebrating Eeyore. The Donkey in Human History, An Archaeological Perspective, by Peter Mitchell. Oxford University Press, 2018. (ISBN 978-0-198-74923-3)

Jana's website: http://donkeysaregreat.com/visiting-the-donkeys/

Pano's Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/donkeyshvareno/

Media

2014 Video - Jana, Pano Penelope HRT1
You are here: Home about animals Donkeys, horses, lessons in patience

Eco Environment News feeds

  • Anne-Marie Trevelyan dismisses those who believe in global heating as ‘fanatics’ in resurfaced posts

    The new international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, has been accused of rejecting the science behind the climate emergency after a series of tweets came to light showing her dismissing those who believe in global heating as “fanatics”.

    Labour has condemned the appointment of Trevelyan, who was elevated from junior business minister, which took in the brief of promoting clean growth, to replace Liz Truss, the new foreign secretary, as part of Boris Johnson’s reshuffle on Wednesday.

    Continue reading...

  • The Cop26 climate summit will be an opportunity to put fossil fuel companies on trial through the court of public opinion

    Fossil fuel companies bear as much responsibility as governments do for humanity’s climate predicament – and for finding a way out. Our planetary house is on fire, and these companies have literally supplied the fuel. Worse, they lied about it for decades to blunt public awareness and policy reform.

    There’s no better time for ExxonMobil and other petroleum giants to be held accountable than at the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow in November. The Glasgow summit is more than just another international meeting. It is the last chance for world leaders to limit future temperature rise to an amount that civilization can survive. Doing so, scientists say, will require a rapid, global decline in oil, gas and coal burning.

    Continue reading...

  • Minister reveals plans to change laws inherited from EU, with rules on medical devices also in crosshairs

    Rules on genetically modified farming, medical devices and vehicle standards will be top of a bonfire of laws inherited from the EU as the government seeks to change legislation automatically transferred to the UK after Brexit.

    Thousands of laws and regulations are to be reviewed, modified or repealed under a new programme aimed at cementing the UK’s independence and “Brexit opportunities”, David Frost has announced.

    Continue reading...

  • Despite protests from locals and Green councillors, wildlife haven will become hard courts at cost of £266,000

    A wildflower meadow containing 130 different flowering plants, dragonflies and rare bats that sprung up on Norwich’s last public grass tennis courts has been bulldozed.

    Despite protests from local people and Green councillors, all-weather hard courts with floodlights and fencing are being installed in Heigham Park, where species including whiskered and brown long-eared bats, pygmy shrews, hedgehogs and 18 species of dragonfly have been recorded.

    Continue reading...

  • Scientists say ozone hole is unusually large for this stage in season and growing quickly

    The hole in the ozone layer that develops annually is “rather larger than usual” and is currently bigger than Antartica, say the scientists responsible for monitoring it.

    Researchers from the Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service say that this year’s hole is growing quickly and is larger than 75% of ozone holes at this stage in the season since 1979.

    Continue reading...

  • Doctors say Mathew Richards’ life expectancy has been shortened due to exposure to hydrogen sulphide fumes

    The high court has ruled the Environment Agency must do more to protect a five-year-old boy from landfill fumes that doctors say are shortening his life expectancy.

    In a landmark judgment on Thursday, a high court judge said he was not satisfied that the EA was complying with its legal duty to protect the life of Mathew Richards, whose respiratory health problems are being worsened by fumes from a landfill site near his home in Silverdale, near Newcastle-under-Lyme.

    Continue reading...

  • Since the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, more than 1m tonnes of radioactive water has been building up at the power plant in central Japan. Soon the plant will run out of space to store the water, which is a big problem. The plan at the moment is to dump it all in the sea. So how do you go about making 1m tonnes of radioactive water, safe to drink?

    Continue reading...

  • EPA data reveals that one of America’s biggest PFAS-making plants is second largest polluter of highly damaging HCFC-22 gas

    A new analysis of Environmental Protection Agency data has revealed that PFAS chemicals – often known as “forever chemicals” due to their longevity in the environment – are contributing to the climate crisis as their production involves the emission of potent greenhouse gases.

    In recent years, an ever-expanding body of scientific research has shown that per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are among the most toxic substances widely used in consumer products.

    Continue reading...

  • They are essential for trapping carbon, and world leaders must commit to protecting them, write a group of conservationists

    News that the perilous plight of endangered grasslands is not fully recognised in a EU draft anti-deforestation law (Leaked EU anti-deforestation law omits fragile grasslands and wetlands, 14 September) brings into sharp focus the dangerous underappreciation of a global habitat that has a crucial role in the fight against climate change. Grasslands aren’t just crucibles of biodiversity, playing home to a wealth of wild plants, fungi, butterflies and bees, they also possess an as-yet underreported ability to lock down carbon. Given that up to 30% of the Earth’s land carbon is stored in grassland, these sites are every bit as important as other ecosystems in the fight against greenhouse gases.

    The Grasslands+ campaign, supported by some of Britain’s leading conservation charities including Plantlife, Butterfly Conservation and the Bumblebee Conservation Trust, is calling for international protections for our planet’s grasslands, savannas, plains, heaths, steppes and meadows to help mitigate the impact of climate change and increase biodiversity. The UK government, the EU and other world leaders must commit to restoring, enhancing and protecting these habitats at Cop26 in Glasgow.
    Ian DunnCEO, Plantlife;Gill PerkinsCEO, Bumblebee Conservation Trust; Julie WilliamsCEO, Butterfly Conservation

    Continue reading...

  • When residents in Union Hill, Virginia, decried the pipeline as a form of environmental racism, the energy company insisted it wasn’t

    As fracked gas fields in West Virginia boomed over the past decade, energy companies jumped at the chance to build massive new pipelines to move the fuel to neighboring east coast markets. The 600-mile Atlantic Coast pipeline would have been the crown jewel.

    But Union Hill, Virginia – a community settled by formerly enslaved people after the civil war on farm land they had once tilled – stood in the way. Residents fought against a planned compressor station meant to help the gas move through the pipeline, arguing that because Union Hill is a historic Black community, the resulting air pollution would be an environmental injustice.

    Continue reading...

Eco Health News feeds

Eco Nature News feeds