On being a burro


Nothing having money for a proper saddle, my father-in-law crafted one with blankets and cement bags.

To call someone a burro, is to imply they aren’t intelligent and therefore not much use besides working in the fields. It’s true, they don’t have the panache that horses do, and therefore true caballeros (gentlemen, although literally translates as one who rides a horse) are not donkey owners. But I must admit, burros have their uses.

We had our first introduction to donkeys when we bought my father-in-law a young male burro that he had his eye on for awhile. He was christened Margarito, and my father-in-law was delighted. My mother-in-law was not so delighted. Her father-in-law, the father of my father-in-law, was kicked by a burro and died of internal injuries and she was sure his son would go the same way.

Margarito was a handful to be sure. Burros aren’t like horses. They may be smaller, but they are unpredictable. With a horse, it’s possible to sense when something is up, but not so with a burro. All of sudden, just for the heck of it, it may kick out his back legs or roll on the ground, not caring that it might be still attached to a plow or someone might be on its back.

So I have what I consider a healthy fear of burros.

Margarito had wanderlust. Periodically he would pull himself loose and head out into the great beyond. Then we had to go and find him. Once he went missing for two weeks. We finally found him when a neighbor mentioned that he had seen him tied about 3 miles away. So there we tromped to get him back.

Finally, my father-in-law traded Margarito for an elderly pregnant burra he named Chona. Chona was an experienced work donkey. Even at 10 months along, she could pull the plow with the best of them. She didn’t fuss or buck.

In due time, she presented my father-in-law with Fabian, a wooly little burro. My in-laws also profited by selling cups of burra milk for 40 pesos per cup. Apparently, it has medicinal properties and people from town would drive all the way out to La Yacata in order to have freshly squeezed milk. Donkeys are not like cows. They do not give an overabundant supply, just enough to feed their offspring, so the rarity of it increases its value. This extra profit won over my mother-in-law to the benefits in keeping a donkey around.

Fabian, being young and male, was unruly. When he was big enough to be hitched to the plow, his training began. But he did not take to it at all. Berinche after berinche. (Tantrums) Once, he had managed to uproot the entire tree he had been tied to. Being loose, he started moseying about. However, the fact that the tree was following him, must have spooked him and he reared up and took off running down the road. He wasn’t hard to find, leaving a well-swept trail behind him. Eventually, Fabian was sold.

donquita and chona

The one on the left is Donquita, and Chona is on the right.

Then my husband decided he too wanted a burra to plow and we bought Donquita. She was about a year old and so skinny. She had been living in a corral with about 10 other donkeys raised specifically for their milk.

burros plowing

Donkeys, when mild tempered and trained, make excellent plow pullers.

She worked well beside Chona and between the two of them, we plowed and planted about 2 acres in total this past year.

However, Donquita was jumpy. My father-in-law (and myself) had the concern that by accident she might give a back kick and hit my son. When she did eventually kick my husband, we sent her up the lane to live at my in-laws, where now pregnant, we await the birth of her first La Yacata burrito.

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Filed under Animal Husbandry

7 responses to “On being a burro

  1. I love your pics, the burros are so cute! I have a great picture of a burro in Portugal all decked out and beaded- he gave my daughter a nice ride around the village. He was very calm.
    My favorite is the top picture with the saddle made from cement bag..now that is creative recycling!


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