What is it about donkeys? Everywhere I look, people are getting donkeys. Like the versatile little black dress, they just seem to go well with everything.
Jenji Kohan and Piper Kerman may think that orange is the new black, but in the equestrian world are donkeys the new black?
I ask this question because the more I look around, the more I see people getting donkeys. Whether they are Miniature Mediterraneans, Mammoth Jackstocks or just your standard, run-of-the-mill donkey, these seem to be the equines of choice when it comes to companion animals and pasture mates.
Sure, they’re cute, but I’ve been left wondering what I’m missing. Quite a bit, it turns out.
Beyond the cute factor, donkeys are incredibly useful to have around the barn.
Donkeys are intelligent. Undoubtedly, donkeys will be the smartest equines on the place. (No wonder Benjamin was the only animal who didn’t buy the line the pigs were selling in “Animal Farm.”) They are usually the first to be aware when something is amiss and, unlike horses that flee in the face of danger, donkeys assess the situation, determine the threat level and then inform the rest of the herd as necessary.
They are excellent herd protectors. If donkeys determine something is dangerous, they will protect the herds with which they have bonded. They chase away unknown predators, protecting against coyotes, foxes, dogs, ground squirrels, wild pigs and any other interlopers that deign to enter their pastures. Therefore, donkeys help ensure the safety of the herd. They will bed down with their herds at night and if they hear a strange noise, they will voice a warning to the herd and then chase down the predator. They have been known to trample predators in the process.
Donkeys make great companion animals. Donkeys seem to have a calming effect on horses, which makes them ideal companions for nervous horses or horses that can’t be with the rest of the herd. They also work well to wean a foal from its dam. If the donkey is introduced to the mare and dam ahead of time, when the foal is separated it can be placed with the donkey, to which the foal will turn for comfort. Even horses that are fairly confident will begin to look to donkeys when they are frightened in order to decide how to react. You know what that means? That’s right. Less chaos.
They can pull their weight … and then some. Donkeys can be trained to pull a cart or farm equipment. Despite their size, they’re sturdy steeds that pack a punch. They a stronger than they look and can be darned useful.
They are ideal candidates for equine-assisted therapy programs. Donkeys are known for the kind and patient nature, which makes them well suited for therapy programs that are targeted at children, the elderly, disabled persons or those struggling with mental illness.
Donkeys are relatively low maintenance. Those of us who have been in the equestrian world for any length of time know that the term “low maintenance” is always relative. While that’s certainly the case here, compared to other equines, donkeys are relatively easy to maintain. Of course they need to high quality food, but they need less than most horses, they don’t get sick easily and generally have good feet. They can founder, of course, so owners need to go light on the treats and high-sugar feeds.
If treated well and properly trained, it seems that donkeys actually may be the equines that go well with nearly everything.
Do you have a donkey in your pasture? Let us see in the comments section!