The donkey and the cow: the 15-year Sheffield friendship that inspired a book

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Spirit the donkey nestles in close to Rosie the cow, in the pen they share contentedly at Whirlow Hall Farm.

It’s a strange sight indeed, but what visitors to the Sheffield farm may not realise at first glance is that this unlikely pair have been firm friends, and roommates, since 2005.

And now, the duo, who are currently preparing to spend their 16th Christmas side-by-side, have inspired a new book, which is on sale at Whirlow Hall Farm this Christmas.

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“They’re very happy here together,” smiles Martin Cowell - Whirlow Hall Farm’s neighbour, and the book’s author.

Martin CowellMartin Cowell
Martin Cowell

"It was about April this year that my wife and I saw them for the first time, while out enjoying a walk in the local area during the first lockdown.

“They were always close together in the same field when we saw them, this donkey and this cow, and I was curious about their story and their relationship, so I went and spoke to the farmer about them.

“I was so surprised to find out they’d been together for 15 years.”

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A seed of any idea started to burrow in Martin’s mind, and he approached the trustees of Whirlow Hall Farm – where he was been a supporter and volunteer for many years – about telling the pair’s story in a book.

Spirit the donkey and Rosie the cowSpirit the donkey and Rosie the cow
Spirit the donkey and Rosie the cow

"They were very supportive,” says the retired solicitor.

"I did some googling to find out more about their background, and spoke with their previous owner, to get the whole story.”

‘The Donkey and the Cow: the story of Spirit and Rosie’ was published earlier this month, and has already sound 420 copies.

Priced at £5.99 each, Martin has generously committed all proceeds of the book to Whirlow Hall Farm Trust.

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"I had the time in lockdown, so I just started writing,” says Martin, aged 70.

"It only took me a morning to get the story down, and then I just polished it up.

"I must give thanks to my wife too, who did a terrific job as proofreader.

“The story is all basically true, with one or two minor embellishments, just to beef it up a bit.

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"The book tells the story of their lives, how they came to be together in the first place, what they’ve been up to over the years, and how they came to be at Whirlow Hall Farm.”

The book also features illustrations by local artist Sian Ellis, another supporter of the farm.

"Her illustrations are fantastic,” says Martin.

"They really do make the book, I think.”

Martin is hoping to raise around £2,500 with the first run of books, which will be on sale in the shop, and on the farm’s website, in the run-up to Christmas.

"It’s all for a very worthy cause,” he adds.

"We have around 180 books left in this run, so if anybody wants one, do get in touch as soon as possible.

"And of course, in 2021, when restrictions have lifted, you can come and meet Spirit and Rosie at the farm for yourself.”

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