How come the US Democratic Party is OK with being associated with a donkey? Couldn't they push for a more flattering animal? An elephant has stronger positive connotations. Couldn't they try to be associated with another one? There's plenty to choose: American bison, bald eagle, grey wolf, grizzly bear, American lion. No one wants to be a donkey, right?

  • 1
    "No one wants to be a donkey, right?" That might be the underlying issue here. Even the donkey in Winnie Pooh is very depressed. Jun 27, 2019 at 20:55

2 Answers 2


Per How did the Republican and Democratic parties get their animal symbols?:

The origins of the Democratic donkey can be traced to the 1828 presidential campaign of Andrew Jackson. During that race, opponents of Jackson called him a jackass. However, rather than rejecting the label, Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812 who later served in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate, was amused by it and included an image of the animal in his campaign posters. Jackson went on to defeat incumbent John Quincy Adams and serve as America’s first Democratic president. In the 1870s, influential political cartoonist Thomas Nast helped popularize the donkey as a symbol for the entire Democratic Party.

Longer version of the story: The Historic Elephant and Donkey; It Was Thomas Nast "Father of the American Cartoon," Who Brought Them Into Politics

R-Elephant vs D-Donkey

Thomas Nast's cartoon "Third Term Panic" {Inspired by the tale of a The Ass in the Lion's Skin} and a rumor of President Grant seeking a third term, the Democratic donkey aka "Caesarism" panics the other political animals-including a Republican Party elephant at the left (via Thomas Nast's wiki page)

For context, recollect that at the time, the Democratic party was the party of pro-slavery southerners, and that the Republican party was the part of anti-slavery northerners.

  • 1
    I came across this reference. That surely explains how it started, but not why it went on. Is the rest just inertia?
    – Pierre B
    Jun 25, 2019 at 11:33
  • @PierreB: See the link I just edited in. It went on because of Thomas Nast in the 1870s. Jun 25, 2019 at 11:34
  • Sorry, but it's not quite a democratic donkey in "Third Term Panic". Everything was labeled. The Ass is the N.Y. Herald, panicking the other papers, meanwhile the actual Democratic Party is the little Fox gone to cover with his paws on the REFORM plank.
    – agc
    Jun 26, 2019 at 6:30

Opponents of Andrew Jackson would call him a "jackass" as an insult during the 1828 presidential campaign. He, however, used the symbol on posters when he was running. In 1837, the donkey was first used in a political cartoon as a symbol for the party:

The first cartoon with the donkey for Democrats

In 1870, Thomas Nast started using the donkey for the party in cartoons. He likely didn't know that the symbol was already associated with Democrats; he'd immigrated in 1840 as a child. This is the first cartoon by him using the symbol:

Thomas Nast's first cartoon using the donkey for Democrats

He also popularized (while not inventing) the symbol of an elephant for Republicans, in this 1874 cartoon:

Thomas Nast's cartoon using the elephant for Republicans

Note that the Democratic Party's official logo is actual this blue capital "D":

The party's real logo

Second source


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .