5 Things: Donkeys and elephants and a lot of politics thrown in

Since today is Election Day in the United States, Animal Advocates of Alabama decided to explore the reason the two major political parties are represented by animal mascots. You should not be surprised to know it has its roots in the Presidency.

According to www.history.com, the first appearance of the donkey was in 1828. The supporters of incumbent President John Quincy Adams called Andrew Jackson, Adams’ opponent in the race, a jackass (modern-day candidates would never, ever call a rival such a name; it’s way too tame). Jackson thought it was funny, and started using a drawing of a donkey on his campaign posters. It worked: Jackson won. He served two terms in the White House.

The elephant came along during the War Between The States, when Abraham Lincoln was President, the first Republican to be elected since the party formed in 1854, according to the history website. Newspapers started using the animal to represent war coverage, since soldiers referred to combat as “seeing the elephant.”

Thomas Nast, the man considered the first true political cartoonist began using the donkey and the elephant in his drawings in the 1870’s. Other cartoonists followed his lead, and the rest – trite phrase alert – is history.

Here are 5 Things you may not know about living, breathing donkeys and elephants:

1. Compared to horses, donkeys are capable of independent thinking and decision making ensuring their safety, according to www.factslegend.org.
2. Donkeys get depressed when left alone. If they don’t live in a herd, they need some other companions like goats or humans, according to the Facts Legend website.
3. Whatever you do, please keep your dogs away from donkeys, the Facts Legend writers say. They hate dogs, most likely because their natural enemies are wolves and coyotes – which also are canines.
4. According to the San Diego Zoo website, donkeys can survive with little water and can tolerate even salty water.
5. Donkeys have been around for thousands of years. Archeologists have found Egyptian tombs from around 2500 B.C. that indicate that owning donkeys was a status symbol at the time, according to www.animaldiversity.org.

Since we live in Alabama, we don’t need to talk about the elephant as the mascot for the University of Alabama. Everybody knows that! But everybody may not know:

1. Elephants don’t like peanuts, according to experts at the Smithsonian National Zoo, so don’t try to feed them any.
2. Like human toddlers and a few other animals, elephants can recognize themselves in a mirror, according to Smithsonian magazine.
3. Elephants can get sunburned, so they protect their skin by throwing sand on their head and back, according to the magazine.
4. Elephants love water and enjoy swimming, according to www.list25.com.
5. That same website reports that while the elephant trunk weighs about 400 pounds, it is so dexterous it can pick up tiny items -- including a single grain of rice.

Veronica Kennedy

Veronica Kennedy is a long-time journalist and lover of animals. A native of Anniston, Alabama, she enjoys cooking, home decorating, and good literature.

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