IT IS an urban myth that large cart horses such a Shires or Clydesdales, pulled boats down the canal, as it was donkeys that helped to power the industrial revolution in Wiltshire.

In the 19th century, far from the days of the motorised boats, donkeys helped to pull the boats down the narrow towpaths of Studley Grange and to commemorate their partnership, The Wilts and Berks Canal Trust continues to sponsor and attend the Wiltshire Donkey Show in Dauntsey.

At every show, which is being held on Sunday,, September 4 this year, the donkeys are driven to the canal near seven locks to receive Wilts and Berks Canal Trust commemorative rosettes and a few carrots for their trouble.

Donkeys were preferred over cart horses due to their size, cost of purchase and upkeep and also due to the fact they could ‘puddle’ the clay, which helped to make the canal bed watertight.

CEO Jonathan Till said that the trust was proud to continue to celebrate the heritage of the canal in all its aspects.

He said: “These animals were sourced, trained, fed, shod and looked after by a variety of characters up and down the canal line. We are proud we that we have members who still have the knowledge and skills of using donkeys, mules and horses as working animals and the skills that have come down the generations from these horseman of old and that our members can in turn, pass these skills onto the next generation of canal users and supporters. We are delighted to share our archive, which includes photos showing working donkeys on our canal.”

The trust is committed to the ongoing restoration of the whole Wilts and Berks Canal, but is raising money to help restore Studley Grange, which joins Royal Wootton Bassett with Swindon and during this flagship project they rediscovered photos of donkeys working on the famous towpaths.

The trust has already moved 20,000 cubic metres of clay from the old canal line to a landfill site, but it still has 5,000 metres left to move before the site is finally closed later this year. For more information about the Donkey Show and the Trust Visit or