On Jan. 20, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were inaugurated as president and vice president of the United States. On this same day, another Biden and Harris were inaugurated into the world.
At Carrick Hill Farm in Onarga, Iroquois County, a 27-year-old donkey named Molly gave birth to twins — a boy and girl — named Biden and Harris, respectively, to honor the iconic day on which they were born.
While farm owner Mike Willis is used to welcoming twins from his black angus cattle — the farm’s primary function — twin donkeys is something that is not seen very often.
“We should change the name of this farm to Twin Farm,” joked Willis. “Every year, we have four or five sets of twins from the cattle, which is pretty common. Donkeys are very rare. There’s only three or four sets known living in the world.”
This rarity stems from the fact that twins in many animals, donkeys included, do not survive birth. According to the farm, it’s thought about 1.7 percent of donkeys will have twins and only 14 percent survive.
Even more unusual is the age of the twins’ mother. The average lifespan of a donkey is between 25 and 30 years. Molly having one baby, let alone two, at the age of 27 is also a rarity for the species.
“She got bred accidentally because she’s 27 and we didn’t want to breed her again,” said Willis.
Molly joined the 200-acre farm in 2018 to breed with Carrick Hill Farm’s male donkey, Elmer, whose main job is to run with the cattle and to keep coyotes away from their babies. Molly and Elmer are also parents to Sadie, who was born in 2018, making their donkey family five members total.
Willis purchased the farm in 2006. He is originally from Ireland and moved to New York City in 1987, and met his wife (who is also from Ireland). The couple married in 1992 and moved to Chicago. They now own the farm in Onarga and reside in Orland Park.
Living on and maintaining the farm is Lindsey and Cole Ishmiel, along with their three sons, Spencer, 9, Brooks, 8, and Teller, 6. It was Lindsey who suggested the timely names for the twins.
Despite the health challenges that can befall twin donkeys, Biden and Harris are doing well. They are currently being kept inside due to the cold and are being partially nursed by Molly, and partially bottle-fed to help take some of the strain off of Molly’s age.
“[Before Molly gave birth] I did comment to the kids one day that she might have twins,” remembered Willis. “I didn’t realize how rare it was, and she had them.”