There’s a lot misinformation out there about donkeys. You may have thought that donkeys are stubborn, less intelligent than horses and goats, and weaker than horses of a similar size.
Well, then you’re in for a big surprise. Donkeys are more like the Clark Kent of the equine family, usually remaining unnoticed compared to the horse, but possessing some truly incredible abilities (like Superman).
Donkeys can live for over five decades and pound for pound, are stronger, sturdier and much more resilient than horses. Donkeys originated in the desert and accompanied the Romans when they invaded Britain in 43 C.E.
The donkey’s reputation for being stubborn is actually because of their highly developed sense of self-protection. It’s very hard to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it sees as contrary to its own best interest or safety.
What’s with the enormous ears?
You may have also noticed that donkeys have much bigger ears than horses do. There’s a reason for that. In the desert, where donkeys originated, they’re able to hear the call of another donkey up to 60 miles away. That’s some incredible hearing!
Their big ears also serve another useful purpose: Air conditioning. The large surface area of their fan-like ears is filled with blood vessels that are located just beneath the skin. When the blood flows through their ears, it cools them down. Then the cooler blood begins circulating throughout the body—a very important feature to have in a hot desert environment.
What do donkeys eat?
You might be wondering how a donkey’s diet compares to that of a horse. Donkeys don’t just have super strength and super hearing; --they also have super digestion. Since food is scarce in the desert, donkeys utilize 95% of what they eat. Their digestive system can break down seemingly inedible vegetation and extract moisture from food far more efficiently than most other animals. If you need fertilizer for your garden, a donkey won’t contribute many nutrients to enrich the soil—he’s used them all up himself.
Are some donkeys used to help horses to relax?
And compared to horses, donkeys show a limited response to emotions such as fear, pain, and illness. These stoic animals will rarely panic and may even appear unresponsive when they’re in distress. When faced with a possible threat, donkeys will always prefer to plant their feet while they evaluate the situation.
Unlike horses, donkeys are not easily frightened. That’s why 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 and companionship after it has left its mother.
Donkeys are also more independent in their thinking than horses and will reason, then make decisions based on their safety. Donkeys are often 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
Are they really super smart?
Donkeys also have amazing memories. They can recognize locales and other donkeys they were with up to 25 years in the past, whereas I’m not entirely sure I can remember what I had for dinner last night.
Donkeys are also better at reading our body language than most people can. That’s important to know when you approach a donkey. You want to be calm, and approach them with the confidence of a leader and with a comforting manner that isn’t demanding. If you’re nervous, a Donley will immediately assume there is something to be nervous about.
Do donkeys develop lifelong friendships?
Donkeys are social animals who truly enjoy each other’s company and will also develop strong emotional bonds with other animals. Donkeys will often pick a best friend, with whom they will spend most of their time. When separated from their companions, donkeys will often become noticeably anxious and distressed, often vocalizing, pacing, and in some cases, even falling into depression.
Sources: Don Winn’s Blog and Animals Today