Donkeys have always been part of my life. I was used to having donkeys around long before I ever owned a pony. Donkeys are unique and adorable with very cheeky personalities! Donkeys, for their size, are able to carry more weight than a horse. They require less sustenance than a horse of the same size and have more efficient digestive systems so can survive on very poor quality roughage. Living in the UK, with all the lush grass, donkeys are very prone to putting on weight. Our donkey Bruno is often a little bit on the chubby side! The Donkey Sanctuary recommend restricted grazing and barley straw- our donkeys also have a little hay or haylage over the winter to supplement their diets.
Just like horses, most donkeys require a foot trim every 6-10 weeks. Donkeys are adapted to dry climates so their hooves have a higher water content and are more elastic than horses’ hooves. Having smaller softer feet means they seem to have an ability to sneak up behind you when you least expect it! Unfortunately, softer hooves also means little stones can easily lodge in the foot and cause abscesses and seedy toe which I promise you does not smell nice! We have a large area of hard standing for our donkeys so they can stand, out of the mud, so their feet and legs have a chance to fully dry when the weather is bad.
Donkeys’ ears are long and thick compared with horses’ shorter thinner ears. The donkeys are always the first to hear the click of the gate or squeak of the door to the feed room! Donkeys have larger eyes, set further apart and a wider forehead than horses. A donkey’s tail is more like a cow’s tail at the top with coarse hair at the bottom. I can say from experience that it’s not fun to get swished in the face with their strong tails when picking out hooves!
Donkeys have longer coarser coats than horses but tend to produce less natural grease so their coats are less waterproof. It is therefore important, living in a damp climate like the UK, that they have access to shelter at all times. Donkeys also love to have a nibble on anything they can get their teeth into including fences, field shelters and our coats and jumpers!
Finally, as we all know, the hee-haw noise a donkey makes is extremely characteristic and very different from the neigh or whinny of a horse. Our donkey Bruno has such a loud hee-haw that it has been heard by others a couple of miles away at times! Donkeys are huge characters and lovely creatures to have around and it just wouldn’t be the same in the yard without our three.
AKA This Esme
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