donkeys, penis size, and farting: their significance to men

donkey with large penis

Most men are keenly interested in penis size and farting. Greek literature from Athenian comedy of the fifth-century BGC to the second-century GC Onos tale suggests that women prefer larger penises.[1] Given their love for women and their deeply rooted concern to please women, men’s interest in penis size is completely understandable. But what about farting?

The fourteenth-century Byzantine poem An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds strongly associates donkeys with large penises and farting. The poem refers to the representative donkey as being “of giant dick and balls.” The ox in the poem proclaimed, “I have a mighty dick, both long and fiery.” The donkey moved quickly in response:

The donkey, having heard the ox’s boast
of how his dick is long and fiery hot,
let fly a little fart and brayed a bit.
Then, heralded by blasts of breaking wind,
in he ran. As he stood on center stage,
he pricked his ears up and addressed the ox:

“You lie, long-winded fool, and boast too much:
it’s me that has a dick thick as a cudgel,
long, robust, plump, and headed with a nostril!
Not only is it bigger than your own,
but it surpasses any animal’s.
And when it’s stirred by lust and kindled somewhat,
its head becomes just like a Western saucer! [2]

Being “heralded by blasts of breaking wind” clearly marks the donkey’s entrance. Farting frequently and mightily is as distinctive to the donkey as is his large penis.

A unique fable embedded within An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds links joyfully farting with donkeys’ oppressive workloads. According to the fable, donkeys petitioned the king of the world for relief from their burdensome share of household work. The king granted relief in a written mandate given to a donkey envoy. The donkey envoy joyfully rushed to bring the good news to his donkey brothers:

he brayed with boundless joy and called them out,
running and farting merrily on the way:
“Rejoice, O donkeys! Be ye of good cheer!
For I have brought the mandate of the king
that they should load us lightly to relieve us,
forbidding extra loading altogether.”
And just as he was braying out these words,
letting fly farts and overcome with joy,
as he was gulping down amidst his braying,
the donkey swallowed down the royal mandate,
reaching the other donkeys empty-handed.

With the donkey envoy having eaten the king’s mandate, donkeys faced being beasts of burden forevermore. To this day, they desperately search their excrement for the lost mandate for their humane treatment.[3]

Men’s interest in farting signifies their bewilderment. Has farting — an explosive, rebellious bodily function — kept men overburdened with work just like donkeys? Does farting help a man to develop a penis like that of a donkey? But what’s the virtue in being hung like a donkey if men’s work with their penises is undervalued? Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey not overburdened with baggage. Why don’t Christians honor men and donkeys more?[4] The men legislators who have passed so many anti-men laws — are they eunuchs who don’t fart? Men naturally fart and wonder.

Under gynocentrism, associating men with donkeys is much less common than asserting that men are dogs or men are pigs. Most men, of course, don’t have a donkey-sized penis. Yet Octavian after his victory in the Battle of Actium erected a victory monument that associated his penis with a donkey. Solomon and Marcolf, a medieval Latin masterpiece of men’s sexed protest, celebrates the work of donkeys and reverberates with farting. More understanding of men and donkeys and their penises and farting might be the most promising path forward toward treating men more humanely.

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[1] On penis size in Aristophanes’s fifth-century Athenian comedies, see note [3] in my post on Asinarius.

[2] An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds ll. 646-55, from Greek trans. Nicholas & Baloglou (2003) p. 195. The previous two short quotes are from l. 82, p. 165 (of giant dick and balls), l. 671, p. 195 (I have a might dick…). The subsequent quote is ll. 710-20, p. 199 (he brayed with boundless joy…). The horse calls the donkey a ψωλογομάριν (l. 665, p. 195). That’s literally ψωλο-γομάριν, meaning dick-(little beast of burden), or dick-donkey. Id p. 342. Nicholas & Baloglou translate that word in context as “Dick-O-Matic.”

Underscoring  the long history of disparaging men’s penises, in early-twentieth-century rural Greece an ox penis (βοïδóπουτσα) was used as a whip. The word βοïδóπουτσα became the term for a riot police club by the late twentieth century. In twentieth-century Brazil, the ox penis was used as a torture implement. Id. p. 337.

Quadrupeds describes animals other than donkeys as farting. The rat declares that the cat will get beaten and “start farting farts like walnuts rattling!” l. 171, p. 169. The dog said of the fox, “you swell up, fart early, and fart often!” l. 246, p. 173. Nonetheless, the farting of the donkey is more prominent in the text than the farting of these other animals.

Quadrupeds seems to have been written about 1364, probably in Constantinople or Thessalonica. Its author was most plausibly a man from “the lower echelons of the Byzantine literati.” Quadrupeds has survived in five manuscripts. The earliest manuscript (Constantinopolitan (C): Graecus Seraglio 35) was written in 1461. Id. pp. 60-71, 97-8; the quoted phrase is from p. 68.

Quadrupeds is a work of beast flytings, with pairs of beasts being members of the opposing sides carnivores and herbivores. Beast flytings also also exist in medieval Latin poetry. For a review of the Latin beast flytings, Ziolkowski (2003) Ch. 5. This type of beast poetry has been largely overlooked. Id. p. 132.

[3] A close parallel to the fable of the donkey swallowing the king’s mandate for relief exists in a folk story from the village of Pera in Cyprus. The Aesopic fable “Zeus and the Donkeys” (Perry 185 / Gibbs 568) is more loosely related. Nicholas & Baloglou (2003) pp. 40-2. Quadrupeds probably got the tale from the ancient source for the folk tale. It’s unlikely that Quadrupeds influenced oral stories. Id pp. 56-60.

[4] The Christian Gospels indicate that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a young donkey not overburdened with baggage. On Jesus not carrying heavy baggage, Mark 6:8, Matthew 10:9-10, Luke 9:3. See also Matthew 6:25-6.  John 12.14-5 states that Jesus entered Jerusalem on a young donkey (ὀνάριον). That animal was the colt (πῶλος) of a donkey (ὄνος). Mark 11:7 and Luke 19:35 simply describe the animal as a colt (πῶλος). Matthew 21:2-7 has created difficulties for interpretation. According to it, Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey (ὄνος) and her (αὐτῆς) colt (πῶλος). Matthew representing the donkey as the female parent of the (male) colt is best understood as signifying the sense of epochal change in Zechariah 9:9, meaning the overthrow of gynocentrism. In part due to lack of appreciation for donkeys, men, and medieval literature, gynocentrism unfortunately has endured.

In the medieval Latin poem “Disce, leo {Learn, lion},” a donkey described his extensive bookish learning and chided a lion:

Don’t look down on me, you who are proud with your puffed-out neck,
for the Lord of Heaven mounted upon the back of a donkey,
He who trod down the savage lion with His own heel.

{Non me dispicias tumida cervice supervus,
Nam dominus celi dorsum conscendit aselli,
Qui propria sevum calce calcavit leonem.}

Latin and English trans. Ziolowski (1993) pp. 137-8. I’ve lineated Ziolkowski’s English translation and used “donkey” rather than “ass” for asellus to be consistent in terms. “Learn, lion” offers a deeply subversive allegorical interpretation of Zechariah 9:9 and the meaning of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. That allegorical understanding probably wasn’t limited to learned clerics writing in Latin. Byzantium was a Christian society in which Jesus’s association with a donkey would be generally recognized.

A donkey’s commendable Christian charity appears in the twelfth-century Latin “Testamentum asini {The Testament of the Ass}.” The donkey’s bequests conclude thus:

to widows, my erect penis
together with my testicles.

{priapumque viduis
una cum testiculis.}

ll. 42-3, Latin text from Novati (1883) pp. 79-81, English trans. in Ziolkowski (1993) p. 299. I’ve adapted the above translation from Ziolkowski’s.

[image] Donkey with a penis. The donkey is disputing with an ox. Illumination from manuscript An Entertaining Tale of Quadrupeds, Constantinopolitan Graecus Seraglio 35 (folio 53v). This manuscript was written in 1461 in Venetian Negroponte (Euboea). Nicholas & Baloglou (2003) p. 98. According to the expert and influential legal understanding of Wikimedia Commons, this image is in the public domain in the U.S.


Nicholas, Nick, and George Baloglou, ed. and trans. 2003. An entertaining tale of quadrupeds. New York: Columbia University Press.

Novati, Francesco, ed. 1883. Carmina Medii Aevi. Firenze: Alla Libreria Dante.

Ziolkowski, Jan M. 1993. Talking animals: medieval Latin beast poetry, 750-1150. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.