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The story of Josephine the Burro

This week's edition of Remember This recounts a local woman's mission to bring a Mexican burro home to the Sault

From the archives of the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library:

Ever since she was a little girl, it was Eva Stehr’s dream to own a burro of her very own.

The word "burro" comes from the Spanish word for donkey, "borrico." Burros are a member of the horse family, Equidae. Originally from Africa, they were introduced to the Desert Southwest by the Spaniards in the 1500s.

In the spring of 1969, a lady’s childhood wish was fulfilled when she got what she had always dreamt of.  In April of 1969, Mrs. Stehr and her husband, Dr. Antoine Stehr, had just moved to their new A-frame home situated on Fourth Line East, in Sault Ste. Marie. Now that she and her husband owned a big piece of property, Mrs. Stehr would be granted her heart’s desire of owning a burro who could roam their 10-acre property. And so, she embarked on a road trip to Hamilton to pick up her new pet.

What an adventure it was as Mrs. Stehr, three other women, four rather large dogs and Josephine the burro, drove home in their van. Driving in a vehicle with that much activity would be an adventure that no one would ever forget. Each time they had to stop for gas the burro would make a fuss and bray, nervous that she might get left behind on the trip. That’s what Mrs. Stehr thought anyway.

Eva Stehr, upon owning her new pet was impressed with the character of her burro and wanted everyone to know the wonderful character that Josephine had. She often wanted to clear up any misunderstandings about Josephine’s intelligence as donkeys were often thought to be rather dumb and stubborn. Eva quickly realized that it was quite the contrary with Josephine, as she was proving to be very intelligent, not in the least bit stubborn, and very affectionate too.

One evening in July 1969, Mr. Stehr was going about his chores around the yard while Josephine closely followed him. She would not leave his side. Her character seemed heightened as though she wanted to tell Mr. Stehr something. Upon purchasing Josephine, back in April of 1969, a very important fact was told to the Stehrs. When a veterinarian came to examine her they were informed that they could expect Josephine to foal the following spring. For the next few days, the burro’s character remained just a bit off and so once again the vet came to visit. Within the next week the mystery of Josephine’s odd behaviour became known and she gave birth to a foal!  He was named Figoro!  It seems that Figoro had made his arrival many months before he had been expected.

Mrs. Stehr was a lover of animals and she also had big dogs that she housed in their large fenced in area. A borzoi, a saluki with 10 puppies and some Afghan dogs.  All were removed from their acre run to make room for Josephine and her son Figoro. Each day, the mother and son wandered their enclosure eating hay and wild flowers and enjoyed the benefits of being under the care of their owners. Eva and her husband had plans for the two equestrians also. Their plan was to buy a cart for them and give rides to children in Bellevue Park.

So this is the early history of Josephine the Burro, before she found her home at Bellevue Park. Shortly after coming to the Stehr home, Josephine was transferred to Bellevue Park. Many will remember her small A-framed house that she shared with the deer. Eventually, all of the animals were sent elsewhere when City Parks decided to find new homes for them and eliminate the zoo altogether. Josephine’s house too left the park and a local woman in Sault Ste. Marie decided that she would like the unique little house. She gave the structure new life.  She rebuilt it and repainted it and transformed it into the perfect playhouse for her children.  

Hopefully Josephine enjoyed her next home too and perhaps she had some great memories of the many visitors that came to see her at Bellevue Park.

Each week, the Sault Ste. Marie Public Library and its Archives provides SooToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Public Library has to offer at www.ssmpl.ca and look for more Remember This? columns here