December 09, 2023

Dem Donkeys: Burros, Mules & Other Beasts

by Stacey Harris-Papaioannou, DAGR Fundraising Chair

We all know that the donkey is the mascot of the Democratic Party. But have you ever wondered how that came to be -- or what the differences are between a donkey, a burro, a jackass, and a mule?

Democrats Abroad Greece is on a mission to help you distinguish these members of the equidae ("horse") family.

The donkey is such a fitting mascot of the Democratic Party, the “party animal” of blue politics. This incredible animal symbolizes strength and determination, humility and simplicity, AND both caution and carefulness – which unfortunately are confused with stubbornness or obstinance. Physically strong, the donkey is a hard-working creature who is persistent and does not give up easily.

Sounds like the average Democrat, right?

The Democratic donkey can trace its origins back to the 1828 presidential election.

The opponents of Andrew Jackson had insultingly called him a jackass, and Jackson decided to take up the disparaging mantle and use it to his gain. Jackson used the symbol in his campaign materials, agreeing at least in part with his opponents that he was “stubborn.”

The Republicans continued to use the symbol as an insult for several decades. The 19th century political cartoonist Thomas Nash produced several images associating the donkey with Democrats. And eventually Democrats were officially associated with the donkey.  Perhaps that influenced Thomas Nast’s famous cartoon of 1870, which was published in the American magazine Harper’s Weekly. German-born Nast’s drawings also helped create modern images of Uncle Sam and Santa Claus. The popularity of the donkey symbol stuck. Later, Nast used depictions of both the elephant and the donkey together, to represent various arguments between the Democratic and Republican parties.

By the mid 1800s, the Jackson/jackass moniker (right) had been extended to other Dem candidates.

The differences between DEMS and the GOP (these days) are as plain as the trunk on the elephant, and to this day, political cartoons feature donkeys and elephants to make their points.

But what makes a donkey stand out from a burro, jackass, or mule?

A donkey is a domesticated member of the horse family. Today's domestic donkey is a descendant of the African wild ass, and these hard workers have been hauling goods since 4000 BCE.

In Greece, ‘gaidourakia’ rights are being recognized and over-weight loads or tourists disallowed.

A jackass is a male donkey. The Latin word "asinus," which refers to the animal, made it easy to make ass interchangeable with donkey.  “Jackass" refers specifically to a male donkey. This derives from the male donkey's nickname "jack" paired with the original donkey terminology "ass." Female donkeys are called "jennies" or "jennets," but a female ready to breed is known as a "broodmare."

A wild donkey is a burro. "Burro" is the Spanish term for the common working donkey in Spain and Mexico. It probably became English vernacular in the U.S. when Spaniards brought burros to America's southwest in the 1500s.

Happy wild burros (left). And a mule (right). Happy? Can’t tell. Refuses to smile.

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Mules, which are often between 35 to 70 inches (0.8 to 1.7 meters) tall, usually have the body of a horse and the extremities of a donkey. Their sounds are a blend of both parents; a mule bray begins with the common horse whinny and finishes with the hee-haw bray of a donkey. The mule may be a hybrid – and you can find out more, if you want – but that ‘stubborn as a mule’ description seemed a good fit for our President from Missouri, Harry Truman.

So now you know the differences between these various beasts and a bit of the history behind how the donkey became our party's mascot/symbol.

What you should also know: Right now, Democrats Abroad volunteers are hard at work sketching logos and creating swag that will feature "our donkey." The results of their work will be showcased on swag that will make its way to you. See some of our favorites here.

Make a donation to help keep the lights on and the website running. Choose some donkey swag to make your own and help us get the message out! As members, volunteers and contributors, we:

  • Keep our Democrats abroad well informed
  • Get reminders of our voting deadlines
  • Register and request our absentee ballots
  • Help make others aware of the issues 

Watch the DAGR web page, newsletter and social media pages for more donkeys to help get out the vote in Greece! 

Like that sturdy, optimistic donkey looking up that long, uphill climb, we’re strong, determined, and optimistic, too. And we’re counting on you!


BONUS: Donkeys DAGR has Known and Loved

Made for swag for the 2019 Dems Abroad EMEA Regional Meeting, in Athens

Original art, tote bag, 2019
Fern Valentzas

Original art, mug, 2019
Fern Valentzas



Computer graphic, fridge magnet, 2019
Jai Salvador

Computer graphic, tee shirt, 2019
Jai Salvador


Papier mache, pinata, 2019
Sarajane Kidd Leone