Donkeys were also used for medicinal purposes. For example, donkey’s milk was given to those suffering from tuberculosis and to premature babies. During the Middle Ages, the hairs from the cross on a donkey were worn in a chain around the neck to guard against toothache, fits and whooping cough.
Donkeys are thought to have been brought into Britain by the Romans during the Roman invasion of the 1st century A.D. The earliest known documented reference to a donkey in Ireland is in 1642 when a reference was made to a donkey being seized in the capture of Maynooth castle.
It was not until the 19th century that the donkey rose to prominence in Ireland. During the Peninsular War (1808-1814), many donkeys were brought to Ireland by the British who were fighting against the French army. As Irish stallions were in high demand on the continent, the British army traded donkeys in exchange for horses. After this time, the donkey appears much more frequently in Irish records.
In Ireland, donkeys were used by people for transportation purposes. As donkeys have the ability to carry and pull loads up to twice their body weight, donkeys were an invaluable asset to farmers. They were used for ploughing and working crops, collecting turf, transporting potatoes and seaweed, and for transporting other goods. In today’s society, while some donkeys are still used for work purposes, most are pets.