I was away for a good chunk of July, working with Kenyan orphans and their caretakers and teachers. This was my second trip of this type, and while it's not a horse-focused trip, I always enjoy looking for the equid animals while I'm there (in addition to giraffes, which are actually my favorite African animal!)!
My fellow team members (who aren't horsepeople) would shout, "Look, Stephanie, a horse!" anytime they'd see one, which I found amusing. Among the horses I saw were some very content grazers in the high country, north of Nairobi, owned by the same people who owned a golf course in the area. Culturally, horses are only owned by the very wealthy in the areas of Africa I visited. In a British-estate pocket of Nairobi I saw someone mounted on a very smart sport horse pony with a pulled mane and polished hooves. Twice I saw a gentleman riding his bay up the median strip of a busy interstate-type highway. The horse was sound and in good flesh, although I never quite figured out the purpose of his riding. It seemed an odd sight!
But these aren't the equids you clicked to read about, so here you go:
Donkeys are the unsung heroes of Kenyan agriculture and commerce. They're ubiquitous as work animals both in the villages and in the more rural areas. I saw many more on this trip than I remember seeing on my last. They're hauling water, wood, potatoes … pretty much anything that needs transporting across roads both paved and "earthen." Every donkey that I saw seemed well-fed and healthy—I don't recall seeing a single thin or diseased-looking one. There was quite a bit of rain where I visited (not so in other regions, from what we're reading in the news), so there's no lack of forage for the nibbling. Also, these are many owners' livelihood, so caring for them well means a longer, serviceable life. It's good to see that level of care.
It's interesting to see how husbandry techniques vary among regions—some of the donkeys I saw in one region were tied with a loose rope around a pastern, whereas in another region they'd loop a rope around the donkey's neck. Some were hobbled together and dozing happily in the sunshine on the side of the road. I could rarely tell who the owners were. It's the kind of thing you see but don't question—hundreds of random donkeys grazing, either staked or hobbled, with no owner in sight. But I had to remember that someone's obviously caring for that donkey, and he might live in the community of corrugated metal shacks a few hundred feet away.
Occasionally I'd see a donkey youngster trotting alongside a pair of older donkeys that were pulling a cart. There isn't anything much cuter than a baby donkey … except maybe a baby zebra.
And on the side of the road--albeit farther away from civilization--I'd see zebras. Generally, they were in large groups and you could pick a herd's stallion out from the group quickly. He was generally standing between the camera and the herd with a "Just how close are you going to get?" expression. If a group was facing away from you, it looked like a bunch of UPC codes from the road.
I saw a small group of what appeared to be gangly bachelor stallions when I was taking a safari day in Nakuru. One of them approached the herd and was promptly run off with bared teeth and a set of heels.
Seems all that separates our horses and these equids are some stripes and long ears.
Here are a few of the photos that I took. I hope you enjoy them.
What's your favorite nonhorse equid, and why?