Many are familiar with the iconic bull that is known as the symbol of Spain: you see it on merchandise, on the large billboard when driving throughout the country, and as a big part of many cultural events during the year. However, you will notice that the Spanish bull is absent in Catalonia and instead is replaced by a donkey that can be found on many bumper stickers and baseball caps. What does the donkey mean and what does it stand for, exactly?
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History of the Catalan donkey
The Catalan donkey, or the “ruc català,” is a species of donkey that is native to the region of Catalonia. It is one of the oldest and largest breeds and it can’t be found anywhere else in the world. Once numbering around 50 000, there are now only about 500 purebred Catalan donkeys left. This species of donkey is known as being peaceful and strong-willed and has been used by farmers throughout centuries to help with agriculture. Standing about 1.65 meters on average, these animals are strong, hard-working, and know how to get the job done.
A symbol of Catalonia
Catalan people have always held on strongly to their history and culture and many believe that it is quite distinct and separate from the Spanish one. In recent years Catalans have been very vocal about the desire to split with Spain and be a free state: one that has its own language and cultural identity that unifies its people. The idea came about in the year 2000 to create a symbol for Catalonia that embodied the beliefs and characteristics of Catalans and that could be seen as something to identify this small “nation.” Graphic designer Eloi-Allegre created the Catalan donkey that is now seen on the backs of cars, on key chains, and caps all over Catalonia, and since then it has been adopted as the unofficial symbol of this Spanish region.
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The Catalan spirit
The Catalan donkey was chosen to be the symbol of Catalonia because it is an animal native to the area and that embodies the traits that Catalans themselves value. Whereas the Spanish bull embodies power and fight, the Catalan donkey is a peaceful animal that is strong-willed and persistent. Catalans are persevering in their quest for a national identity and to be an independent nation, but are doing it in a peaceful way and not resorting to violence and aggression. They are persistent and peaceful, just like their aptly-chosen mascot. So the next time you see a Catalan donkey on a bumper sticker or on a T-shirt, you will know that this person is supporting a Catalonia that is a free nation with its own spirit, culture, and identity.
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* Main photo by Alberto-g-rovi via Wikimedia Commons