Old Major was a stout-looking boar of twelve years of age. He was wise and benevolent. He was highly regarded by the other animals on the farm.
It was Old Major who, one night, dreamt of a world where all animals were equal and Man was no more. He told his dream and visions to the animals. If Man were removed from the scene, the cause of hunger and overwork would be abolished. He delivered the message of rebellion to the animals and since all the animals looked up and honoured Old Major, they took to his words. It was also Old Major who taught the song 'Beast of England' that was sang and remembered by the animals throughout the story.
Eventhough Old Major dies within a short time of his presence in the story, he held a very big and deep impression throughout the story. His speeches and teachings gave the animals on the farm a new and deeper outlook on life. An important factor was that he did not use any elements of terror or play with the fear of the animals for them to listen. He was one of the influential characters of the story and it was he who brought about the idea of the animal revolution.
Benjam8in, the donkey was the oldest animal on the farm. He seldom talked and was reputed for being cynical. He was alone for most of the time and was devoted to Boxer, the horse.
Benjamin was one of the few animals that remained unchanged after the Rebellion took place. He did his work all right, never shirking but also never volunteering for extra work. Benjamin was also amongst the cleverer animals, as he knew how to read and seemed to be able to predict the future. Benjamin also noticed the gradual changes in the principles of the Animal Farm. He knew and understood of Napoleon's plans but unfortunately did not voice his knowledge because if he did the Animal Farm may not have been dominated by the pigs.
Benjamin gives me the impression of people who are reserved and quiet but possess the knowledge that many do not have. He could have been more powerful and influential than pigs but he kept in the shadows and did not once step into the limelight. His character was a solemn one but I found him, a character that I respect. In all the confusion, prejudices and talks, he stood his ground and believed in no one but himself. It is this side of his character which I respect. He was not influenced by anyone.
As for the importance of either character in the story, I believe that Benjamin's character is more important than Old Major's. Although some may argue that Old Major is a more important character, he was idealistic and was not practical. I feel that Benjamin's character creates interest in the readers. He arouses emotions in readers (such as anger, irritation, relief and horror) and keeps us guessing - whether he will voice out his views and shut the pigs up. Our blood pressure rises - as he races to save Boxer. If not for him the animals would not learn the truth of the pigs' cunningness, though the eradication only makes him sadder. So he is more important than Old Major.