One of the things that we're not used to seeing is the huge number of
animals that are being led around, driven in herds, ridden, or pulling
carts. You're quite unlikely to see a donkey cart in New York, but here
they are more common than cars or trucks, it seems.
We saw water buffalo, a few cows, sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, and
There are three uses for water buffalo (three "types", Fateh
says). The first is for milking. Water Buffalo milk is white and good
tasting and much preferred to cows milk. THe second type are for eating,
and are often force fed to fatten them up. These two types are usually
healthy and plump. The rest of the Water Buffalo are used for work, and
are "always skinny", he says. To our western sensibilities,
most animals are very skinny here. Horses are not usually used in the
field, Water Buffalo are used in stead in harness.
Donkeys are ubiquitous beasts in Egypt -- ridden, pulling carts, carrying
loads. In some cases, they are just plodding along on their own, obviously
used to the paths and delivering their load without any supervision.
DOnkeys are preferred to mules, which can be stubborn and vicious. Donkeys
are docile and hard working.
Donkey is just the common name for an Ass, a distinct species from horses.
Mules are a cross between a male Donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a
mare). The cross between a female donkey and a male horse is actually
called a hinny, and are quite uncommon. Donkeys are fairly small, and
seem to come in one of two colors: dirty white and dirty brown.
Horses are not as commonly seen except for pulling the caleches in the
tourist towns. A few pull carts in the cities, or are ridden, but we saw
very few of them. THey are more expensive to keep, and harder to work
with than the smaller, more common donkey.
Dogs and Cats
Dogs are surprisingly scarce, and most appear to be strays. Islam classifies
dogs are dirty animals, and few are kept as pets. Working dogs seem uncommon
here, too, despite the huge number of sheep and goats. We've decided that
dogs are of two different breeds in Egypt: Big and Small. THe larger version
are 50 or 60 pounds and sort of shaggy. The smaller ones are terrier-like.
We also laughingly determines that we could further classify them as "brown"
and "not-brown". Most are pretty scraggly looking, although
they seem well-fed. We heeded the warnings to avoid the strays, no matter
how pitiful, as many were infected with rabies and a bite would require
the whole series of shots.
Cats, though, are common and still well-accepted. The myth that ancient
Egyptians worshiped cats is just that -- a myth -- but they did revere
them as manifestations of Bast, a popular goddess.
THere are so many birds here that I almost wish I had brought a guidebook
for them. There are simply hundreds of snowy egrets here -- so common
they are called "sow egrets", and the gray and black crows are
Doves are raised for food, in dovecotes that are everywhere, even in
downtown Cairo you will see a beehive-shaped dovecote on a rooftop. When
we asked about the difference between a pigeon and a dove, we were told
that "oh, they're the same, but we eat doves".
CHickens are smaller here, but quite tasty. We never actually saw any
chickens running around, but huge farms raise them just outside of Cairo.