I have often written about the Urban Herd of cattle that roam around our suburbs in ever increasing numbers – there were over forty of them in what I have come to know as the ‘forest herd’ crossing the main road into town the other day in their search for grazing on what used to be a golf course. I have mentioned the presence of donkeys before, but there seems to be a proliferation of them too of late. They are still commonly used as a means of transporting goods.

Unfortunately, not all donkeys are treated with the care they deserve.

Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,

I keep my secret still. – The Donkey (G.K. Chesterton)

Donkeys also wander all over town, singly or in groups of up to six. They eat whatever they can find on grass verges and, sadly, even tear open the plastic bags of garbage left on pavements for collection.

This is one of several donkeys that had been grazing just outside of town. It had stopped to munch another mouthful or two of grass.

While the rest had already started their walk into town.

Fools! For I also had my hour;

   One far fierce hour and sweet:

There was a shout about my ears,

   And palms before my feet. – The Donkey G.K. Chesterton.

NOTE: Click on a photograph if you wish to see a larger view.



… on my veranda.

Not actually my veranda, but that of one the older houses in town which opens onto the pavement.

As with the Urban Herd of cattle, we often see donkeys roaming around the streets, usually in ones or twos – sometimes even threes. These ones are eating the kikuyu grass growing on a road verge on the outer edge of town.

Seeing a donkey on someone’s veranda was unusual enough to photograph, yet, on the same day on someone else’s veranda there were five!

They remind me of a well-known Afrikaans song:

O, die donkie is ‘n wonderlike ding, ja-nee
Die donkie is ‘n wonderlike ding …

Who can forget that wonderful poem by G.K. Chesterton about the Donkey:

When fishes flew and forests walked
   And figs grew upon thorn,
Some moment when the moon was blood
   Then surely I was born.

With monstrous head and sickening cry
   And ears like errant wings,
The devil’s walking parody
   On all four-footed things.

The tattered outlaw of the earth,
   Of ancient crooked will;
Starve, scourge, deride me: I am dumb,
   I keep my secret still.

Fools! For I also had my hour;
   One far fierce hour and sweet:
There was a shout about my ears,
   And palms before my feet.


I didn’t see any cows in the suburbs today, but did come across a donkey nibbling on the short grass outside someone’s gate:

And a horse looking at me rather quizzically from nibbling short grass inside someone’s gate!


The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns is possibly among the most popular means of introducing young people to classical music and to the different instruments that make up an orchestra. The other is that wonderful symphonic fairy-tale for children, Sergei Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. At the end of May this year, the Grahamstown Music Society devoted the first half of their concert to a transcription by Werner Thomas-Mifune for cello and piano of The Carnival of the Animals. Parents were invited to bring their children and “nobody will take offence if they leave at interval!”

I cannot show you all of the animals, but will introduce you to a few – with a South African twist.

The Royal March of the Lion

Instead of hens and roosters you can see a Red-necked Spurfowl

Donkeys will stand in for the Wild Asses

Tortoises abound

I will have to skip the kangaroos and the aquarium, but a Zebra will step in for the Characters with Long Ears

Skip the cuckoo for now and come to an aviary

Of pianists I have no pictures, so perhaps some Bagpipers will do

The fossils will be represented by a skeleton

Alas, I have no swan so will show you a Yellow-billed Stork instead!


Look at the idyllic scene below of cows grazing on open grassland. The early morning light casts long shadows over the contented herd whilst highlighting the treed hill beyond. Look more closely and you will realize this is no ordinary rural scene.

urban cows

What you are seeing is an open park below our house. Beyond that is the national road that leads into our town at the bottom of the hill. Now, take a closer look at you will appreciate that these are not rail-thin creatures desperate for any food they can find.


No, these animals are sleek and large, well-fed and are quite at home in this open area. Apart from being a hazard to the traffic on the road beyond – I know of people who have stopped at night to shoo them off the road to ensure the safety of other drivers who tend to speed into town – the cows do not confine themselves to this lush patch. The problem is that they move onto the pavements and into gardens. These ones are outside my front gate.


This one is inspecting my neighbour’s verge and made short work of the plants shortly after it was photographed.

And here are some of its mates – those sturdy creatures are not to be trifled with!

white cows

Meet The Urban Herd that wanders through our streets and gardens unchecked. A neighbour complained the other day that not only had she had to herd cows away from her garden early in the morning, but that later on she had had to slow down for about eight donkeys in the High Street, and then was met with a goat running around in the Church Square.

There are donkeys everywhere. I nearly crashed into one on my way to purchase groceries the other morning. Against the rising sun it looked at first like a drum at the side of the road – perhaps warning motorists of yet another pothole – and then it moved in front of my car in a flash. We know of people who have driven into donkeys or had an accident swerving out of their way.

Another neighbour added to the general complaint about the cowpats left on his lawn and that the cows had damaged his rock pathway by “creating a very uneven surface for some-one to stand in, fall or twist an ankle at our letter box”. Others complain of their plants and shrubs being munched on. Who would expect to meet cows standing or lying in the main road or suburban streets in the dark?

Some residents have tried sending pictures of the animals to the Municipal Manager, contacting the traffic police, and have even publicised the telephone number of the person in the municipality who is said to be in charge of stray animals – how odd that he always seems to be ‘out of town’ at a meeting when one asks to be put through to him. All to no avail. As someone said recently, “now that voting is over I think we may all just sing for our supper!”

The Urban Herd appears to be here to stay and the number is growing.