Jul 29, 2016

Why Donkeys and Elephants

Washington insiders considered Andrew Jackson as intemperate, vulgar, and stupid. Opponents called him a jackass. During the 1828 presidential campaign, he embraced the label and began including a jackass on his campaign posters. He became the first Democrat president.

Incidentally, donkeys are in the same family as horses. A male donkey is called a jackass.

During the 1870s, influential political cartoonist Thomas Nast helped popularize the donkey as a symbol for the entire Democrat Party. It first appeared in a cartoon in Harper's Weekly in 1870, and was supposed to represent an anti-Civil War faction. Nast drew a donkey clothed in lion's skin, scaring away all the animals at the zoo. By 1880 it had already become the unofficial symbol of the party.


Thomas Nast, in an 1874 Harper’s Weekly cartoon portrayed various interest groups as animals, including an elephant labeled “The Republican Vote,” which was shown standing at the edge of a pit. He employed the elephant to represent Republicans in additional cartoons during the 1870s, and by 1880 other cartoonists were using the creature to symbolize the party.

Democrats say the donkey is smart and brave and Republicans say the elephant is strong and dignified.