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Charlie, the Blackpool donkey

A short guide to the famous Blackpool Donkeys!

28 May 2024

Blackpool is the UKs capital of fun, and of course a famous bustling seaside resort on the northwest coast of England, is renowned for its iconic landmarks, vibrant entertainment, and sandy beaches.

Among the many attractions, one tradition stands out for its charm and historical significance: the famous Blackpool donkeys. For over a century, these gentle creatures have been an integral part of the Blackpool beach experience, offering rides to generations of visitors and creating lasting memories for families from all walks of life.

The Beginnings of a Seaside Tradition

The tradition of donkey rides in Blackpool dates back to the late 19th century. As the popularity of seaside resorts grew during the Victorian era, so did the demand for new and novel forms of entertainment. Donkey rides quickly became a favored pastime, particularly for children, who delighted in the simple joy of a ride along the sandy shores.

Donkeys were first introduced to Blackpool’s beaches in the 1890s. These initial forays were modest, with only a handful of donkeys available for rides. However, as tourism boomed and Blackpool developed into a premier holiday destination, the number of donkeys on the beach increased, solidifying their place in the town’s cultural fabric.

Photos of children enjoying Blackpool donkeys on the beach
Photo courtesy of Caroline Walker, taken in around 1966 with her siblings

The Golden Age of Donkey Rides

The early to mid-20th century marked the golden age of donkey rides in Blackpool. During this period, the sight of donkeys trotting along the beach, adorned with brightly colored saddles and bridles, became synonymous with the quintessential Blackpool holiday. Each donkey was typically given a charming and memorable name, adding to their appeal and helping children form affectionate bonds with their four-legged friends.

The donkeys were managed by local families who took pride in caring for the animals and ensuring their well-being. These families would often return year after year, building a rapport with regular visitors and contributing to the friendly, welcoming atmosphere that Blackpool was known for.

Photograph of a child enjoying a Blackpool donkey on the beach infront of the Blackpool tower
Photograph courtesy of John Salton, sat on ‘Rawhide’ in 1962 enjoying the beach!

Modern-Day Blackpool Donkeys

In recent years, the tradition of donkey rides has continued to thrive, albeit with modern updates and a stronger emphasis on animal welfare. Regulations have been put in place to ensure that the donkeys are well cared for and that their working conditions are humane. For instance, donkeys are given regular rest breaks, veterinary check-ups, and are only allowed to work for a limited number of hours each day.

Today, the Blackpool donkeys remain a beloved feature of the seaside resort, cherished by both locals and tourists. Their presence evokes a sense of nostalgia, reminding visitors of simpler times and the enduring appeal of seaside holidays. The donkeys themselves, often dressed in eye-catching attire, continue to delight children and adults alike, providing a timeless connection to Blackpool’s rich heritage.

As modern Blackpool evolves and adapts to the changing demands of tourism, the donkeys are likely to remain a steadfast part of its charm. Efforts to promote sustainable and ethical tourism are ensuring that these gentle animals are treated with the care and respect they deserve, preserving the tradition for future generations.

The history of Blackpool donkeys is a testament to the town’s enduring appeal and the timeless joy of seaside holidays. From their humble beginnings in the Victorian era to their status as a modern-day attraction, the donkeys of Blackpool have become an iconic symbol of this beloved seaside resort. As they continue to trot along the beach, they carry with them the legacy of over a century of cherished memories and seaside fun.

By exploring the history and ongoing tradition of donkey rides in Blackpool, we gain a deeper appreciation for the cultural significance of these endearing and loveable animals.

Did you know... that the Blackpool Donkeys get a day off written in local law? On a Friday, you won’t see a donkey on the beach as licensing does not allow the animals to work on what used to be a traditional ‘changeover’ day when midweek visitors would leave, and the weekend visitors would arrive!

Did you know… many donkeys retire to Donkey Sanctuaries, such as Sidmouth Donkey sanctuary in Devon where they get to enjoy lazy days grazing and snoozing! The photograph we used on this article was of Charlie, the Blackpool donkey who retired after 21 years working on the sandy shores and now resides in Sidmouth with his retiree friends!

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