Philmont Burro Etiquette

Date: Thu, 26 Feb 2004 08:46:14 -0600
From: John Wisinger
Subject: RE: [Philmont]: Burros

I know this topic has been beaten to death on this list, but I figured I'd through my 2 cents in. I worked at Philmont as the Roving Prospector for the summer of 2002. For those not familiar with the Roving Prospector, it was a job first created in 2001, and there has been one each summer since. This person gets paid by Philmont to wander aimlessly around the ranch with a burro and entertain/educate campers with stories about the mining days (or anything else we feel like talking about for that matter). Anyway, the main point is that I spent 3 months with a burro everyday except my days off. I had named him Sir Robert Animalia Chordata Mammalia Perissodactyla Equidae Equus Asinus Esquire (or Bob the Burro for short). For the first few weeks, I was ready to leave Bob at every camp I passed through. By the end of the summer, they had to pry him away from me. I was ready to load him on the plane and take him home.

Needless to say, I learned a lot about burros. There is one basic thing that everyone hiking with burros should know. There is no difference between the stubborness of a "been there done" that grumpy old fart (90% of advisors), the stubborness of a "I could do things better" teenager (90% of scouts), the stubborness of a "I know everything" college student (90% of the phil-staff including myself), and the stubborness of a "just let me eat grass and poop" burro (100% of burros). To be successful in life, most people have learned to deal with the first three groups of people. Basically, most problems can be solved by better communication. Since burros don't speak English (Bob had mastered horse, cow and burro speak, so I was impressed), you can't talk at them or yell at them. They also respone quite poorly to physical violence or rope tugging. They are herd animals, and they like to follow their friends. If you have a big group of burros and you lead one, the rest will follow him anywhere (assuming that you lead the one established as the leader). So to get a burro to follow you, you just have to establish yourself as the leader. Based on the odor and facial hair thickness of most people in the backcountry, that's a lot easier than you might think.

In short, be nice to your burro. Feed him, take care of him and don't yell at him. When you start walking, keep moving. Every time you stop, that's a signal to the burro that it's time to eat, so don't stop unless you want to take a noticeable break. To get the burro started, face away from him with your head down. That's the way a lead burro would do it. If you look at the burro and pull a rope, or if half of your crew is standing around behind the burro not ready to go, he won't realize that it's time to move. Stay on the trails/roads and avoid getting too close to high grass. If you were hiking through a field of cheesburgers and someone forced you to trek on to get to Supper #9, you'd be mad too. And remember, not everyone who has dealt with that burro in the past is as nice as you are (which is very unfortunate). Therefore, it may take a little while to gain it's trust. And most importantly, remember that your burro his your friend, but sneaking up behind him will get you a quick hoof in the crotch ... and burros kick hard.

The boring engineer formally known as "Prospector John",
John Wisinger

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