Yesterday & Today
Up until 1940 the donkey was an animal which was soon
in the Norman countryside. They were very important to the farms
and were used for many daily tasks.
The donkey has the advantage of being a robust animal and easy to
use, and they require little care. Its cost is really less than
the horse and we can be found in all farms and was often called:
"the horse of the poor".
The donkey is smaller than the horse and was adapted
to be packed. It was mainly used to transport the milk in des copper
cans at the beginning of the twentieth century and later in milk-churns
as represented on the two postcards above.
But the donkey was also used with a cart by a few
small-farms. For example the first postcard shows three donkeys
harnessed "à la volée" on a tipcart to transport
at low tide the kelp rejected by the sea. These algae were used
like manure for the market gardener or the pastures.
But with the fast development of agricultural mechanization
after the war, the donkey has lost its work on place the farms and
its population decreased in the decades following. The department
of the Manche which counted approximately 9000 donkeys at the beginning
of the century, saw its numbers reduce considerably up until 1970.
But since this time the donkey started to become more
popular. It is not used lowever any more in Normandy for agricultural
work but simply like a pet.
Moreover, a new tendency has started over the past by the green
tourism using again the donkey to carry loads but this time for
pleasure. Thus, every year, many ramblers who walk in France use
donkeys to carry their backpack and all necessary equipment to the
One can quote for example Jacques Clouteau a famous
writer who has written about the excursions which he has done with
his donkey Ferdinand, among which is the journey to Saint-Jaques
de Compostelle (cf. amazon.fr).
Many donkey owners are passionate about leisure carting
with barouches or marathon cart.
To prove this passion for donkey, the department of
the Manche account now approximately 2500 donkeys all races.