Atlas Obscura is organizing trips! Join us on an adventure »
Today Only: 50% off Atlas Obscura books and calendars at Barnes & Noble »

Palo Alto, California

The Donkeys of Barron Park

A celebrity donkey and his friend live in a pen in the middle of this public park. 

In a wee pasture tucked between a hospital and a suburb in Palo Alto, California live two donkeys named Perry and Niner, and while these simple donkeys seem like nothing more than a pair of odd community pets, one of them is actually a sort of movie star.

The two donkeys spend their days doing donkey things like eating hay and braying, and will also come up to the gate to be petted by visiting children (and adults). The donkeys even receive fan mail in a mailbox by their corral, and can be spotted going on walks in nearby Bol Park with volunteer handlers each Sunday morning.

If Perry (the smaller of the two) seems familiar, it may be because he was the model for “Donkey” in the Shrek movies. In addition, during Perry’s previous life he served as a companion donkey for horses that needed to be calmed down by his mellow presence. His companion Niner’s full name is Miner 49er, and hails from the Mojave Desert, but does not share Perry’s notorious history.

Visitors will also see a nameplate for Mickey, a donkey who passed to greener pastures in 1998. Mickey was the last of the Bol family donkeys, the herd of donkeys that originally lived on this land in the 1930s, and who were famous themselves for escaping and walking around town in an orderly line. Who could have guessed that Palo Alto had such a rich donkey history?

Update: Sadly, Miner 49er died in October, 2016. The park remains open as of December 2016.

Know Before You Go

The donkeys live along the bike path between Bol Park and Gunn High School. From the playground structure at the park, head south on the bike path about 200 yards. Immediately after you cross the bridge the donkeys will be on the right.