'Primrose' – Toronto, Ontario - Atlas Obscura


A touching tribute to the "Wonkey Donkey." 


Clover Hill Park in downtown Toronto, Ontario, is home to a remarkable equid statue. Placed near the entrance to St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, the figure depicts a baby donkey with her front legs completely encased in what first appear to be pink legwarmers. Named “Primrose,” the 12-foot-tall bronze sculpture, with soulful eyes and fluffy hair, stands in a patch of green grass in front of St. Basil’s Church.

The unusual art installation was created in 2019 by Canadian artist Myfanwy MacLeod. The painted bronze sculpture is modeled after a baby donkey born in 2012 at the Bind Equine Veterinary Practice in Shropshire, England. The Donkey’s legwarmers are actually pink plaster casts. 

The real Primrose entered the world prematurely and with underdeveloped front leg bones. As a result, she was unable to stand or walk. Untreated, her legs would have been permanently bowed and her kneecaps damaged. Two attending veterinarians applied pink plaster casts to Primrose’s front legs. Designed to support Primrose’s body weight, they provided strength and mobility while her legs had time to develop correctly.

Within days, Primrose was walking and jumping about on her tiny pink casts. She captured hearts during her three weeks of rehabilitation, earning the sobriquet “Wonky Donkey.” MacLeod saw Primrose’s story and determined to sculpt her as one of a trilogy of public art installations. The artist referred to the piece as “a parody of the equestrian monument” but also noted the seriousness the sculpture lent to an otherwise light-hearted news story.

At the time of Primrose’s installation in Clover Hill Park, the artist permitted children to write messages on the Donkey’s casts. Those original words and well wishes have faded but are often replaced by scribbled words and drawings from passersby. The “Wonky Donkey” remains a bucolic and adorable counterpoint to the glass and steel office buildings surrounding her.

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January 3, 2023

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