Facts About Donkeys

For thousands of years donkeys have been the 'helping hooves' of humankind - they are the original beasts of burden. In many countries of the world, and in many situations, they are used as the preferred mode of transport. Donkeys are much more of an all terrain animal than horses. Donkeys are in fact a highly intelligent animal despite popular misconception. They can live for over 50 years.

Donkeys are very strong and intelligent

  • A donkey is stronger than a horse of the same size.

  • Donkeys have an incredible memory - they can recognise areas and other donkeys they were with up to 25 years ago.

  • A donkey will not do something it considers to be unsafe.

Donkey Characteristics

  • Donkeys are not easily startled (unlike horses) and have a keen sense of curiosity.

  • Donkeys have a reputation for stubbornness but this is due to their highly developed sense of self preservation. It is difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it sees as contrary to its own best interest or safety.

  • Donkeys are more independent in their thinking than horses and will reason, then make decisions based on their safety.

  • Training a donkey relies upon showing him or her, by words and action, that they can trust you to protect them from harm. They learn what it is we want them to do if we take time to show them.

Donkeys originate from desert areas of the earth

  • In the desert environment a donkey is able to hear the call of another donkey 60 miles away, they have far larger ears than horses. Their large ears also help keep them cool.

  • Because food is scarce in the desert, donkeys utilise 95% of what they eat which means their manure is not a very good fertilizer for land. Their digestive system can break down inedible vegetation and extract moisture from food more efficiently.

  • They don't like the rain and being out in it for long periods can damage their health as their fur is not waterproof.

Donkeys are herd animals

  • Donkeys don't like being kept on their own although a single donkey will live quite happily with goats.

  • A herd will choose the strongest donkey to be their leader, even if domesticated. In the wild the lead donkey would stay to ward off an attack by a wolf or other predators in order to allow the rest of the herd to escape to safety.

  • Donkeys in a herd will groom each other in the same way as monkeys and chimps do.

The work of donkeys through the ages

  • The wealth of the Egyptians was due to the precious metals carried from Africa by donkeys.

  • Donkeys were used to carry silk along the 'Silk Road' from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean in return for trade goods.

  • In Greece donkeys were used for working on the narrow paths between vines and their work in vineyards spread as far as Spain. The donkey was associated with the Syrian God of Wine, Dionysius.

  • The Roman Army moved donkeys into Northern Europe using them in agriculture, vineyards and as pack animals.

  • Donkeys came to England with the Roman invasion of Britain in 43CE.

  • Donkeys are often a lifeline to families in many regions of the world. They help with water and wood fuel collection, land cultivation and transportation of produce to market.

  • Donkeys are used as guard animals for cattle, sheep and goats since they have a natural aversion to canines and will keep them away from a flock.

  • Donkeys are often fielded with horses due to the perceived calming effect they have on nervous horses. If a donkey is introduced to a mare and foal, the foal will often turn to the donkey for support after it has left its mother.