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Google Street View and the Donkey

by Brett M. Christensen

This story was first published on January 17, 2013


Widespread speculation on the Internet suggested that the Google Street View car knocked over and possibly killed a donkey while driving down a bush road in Botswana. 

Brief Analysis

No, Google did not run over a donkey as claimed. The donkey was alive and well after its encounter with the Google Street View car. Google Maps later published further images (see detailed analysis below) that clearly show that the donkey was simply lying on the roadway, but got up and moved to safety as the vehicle approached. The fact that vehicles in Botswana drive on the left-hand side of the road rather than the right has caused some viewers to mistakenly conclude that the vehicle was moving away from the prone donkey rather than towards it.


Did Google Kill a Donkey In Botswana?

Google Street View car suspected of donkey hit-and-run in Botswana:

Google car donkey 1
Google car donkey 2
Google car donkey 3

Images: Google Street View Kweneng, Botswana


Detailed Analysis

Back in 2013, a spate of “news” articles and irate social media messages were speculated that the Google Street View car may have hit and killed a donkey while travelling down a country road in Botswana. Versions of the message continue to circulate several years on.

As evidence, these reports put forward the above images, which in the order that they are displayed, might appear to show the hapless donkey being knocked over and left for dead by the approaching Google Street View vehicle. 
However, the speculation is unfounded. The donkey was not killed or even hit by the Street View vehicle. In response to the speculation, Google Maps has published a blog article that includes images of the donkey in the correct order. The January 2013 article noted:

Over the last 24-hours concerned members of the public and the media have been speculating on the fate of a donkey pictured in Street View in the Kweneng region of Botswana.

Because of the way our 360-degree imagery is put together, it looked to some that our car had been involved in an unseemly hit and run, leaving the humble beast stranded in the road.

As our imagery below shows, the donkey was lying in the path – perhaps enjoying a dust bath – before moving safely aside as our car drove past. I’m pleased to confirm the donkey is alive and well.

Images 1 & 2: our car, driving on the left hand side, approaches the donkey lying down in the road.

Google car donkey 4

Image 3: the donkey gets up and moves aside.

Google car donkey 5

Image 4: a shot taken from the back of our car shows the curious animal back on its feet.

Google car donkey 6

Concerned viewers can check for themselves by examining the Google Streetview photographs of the (non) incident.

It appears that some people may have mistakenly concluded that the vehicle was moving away from the donkey as it lay on the roadway rather than towards it because they assumed that the vehicle was driving on the right side of the road. In fact, vehicles in Botswana travel on the left-hand side of the road.

So, basically much ado about nothing and fueled by shoddy journalism from supposed “news” outlets that should know better – or willfully put circulation and sales above secondary considerations such as the truth.

Written and researched by Brett Christensen and Matthew Christensen

Importance Notice

After considerable thought and with an ache in my heart, I have decided that the time has come to close down the Hoax-Slayer website.

These days, the site does not generate enough revenue to cover expenses, and I do not have the financial resources to sustain it going forward.

Moreover, I now work long hours in a full-time and physically taxing job, so maintaining and managing the website and publishing new material has become difficult for me.

And finally, after 18 years of writing about scams and hoaxes, I feel that it is time for me to take my fingers off the keyboard and focus on other projects and pastimes.

When I first started Hoax-Slayer, I never dreamed that I would still be working on the project all these years later or that it would become such an important part of my life. It's been a fantastic and engaging experience and one that I will always treasure.

I hope that my work over the years has helped to make the Internet a little safer and thwarted the activities of at least a few scammers and malicious pranksters.

A Big Thank You

I would also like to thank all of those wonderful people who have supported the project by sharing information from the site, contributing examples of scams and hoaxes, offering suggestions, donating funds, or helping behind the scenes.

I would especially like to thank David White for his tireless contribution to the Hoax-Slayer Facebook Page over many years. David's support has been invaluable, and I can not thank him enough.

Closing Date

Hoax-Slayer will still be around for a few weeks while I wind things down. The site will go offline on May 31, 2021. While I will not be publishing any new posts, you can still access existing material on the site until the date of closure.

Thank you, one and all!

Brett Christensen,