Are donkeys good companions for horses?

Last Updated on February 25, 2022 by Allison Price

A veterinarian weighs in on the pros & cons of having a donkey to accompany your horse.

Although donkeys are great companions for horses they can also be a good choice as a pet. Consider many factors before deciding if a donkey would be a good companion for your horse. | (c) Sara K. Seremet Photography

Q.I own a 12.year-old Thoroughbred cross gelding that is 16.2 hands. He had to be retired before his time due to soundness. His long-term pasture buddy died recently and I haven’t found another low-maintenance, easy-going horse or pony that can replace him. Although I have lots of space and beautiful grass pastures, my finances and time are limited and I am not comfortable with high-energy horses. I am considering adopting a donkey as a companion for my horse, but I don’t know much about donkeys. Any advice?

ERIN GREATRICH, DVMI love donkeys! They are great companions for horses, and wonderful animals for humans to spend time. They are very different to horses in many ways. If you are able to provide a suitable home for them, you will be better equipped to understand their unique health needs and general nature.

Donkeys are known for being sweet and intelligent. Nevertheless, there are some aspects of their natural temperament that are often misunderstood. Their fight-or-flight response is different from horses. They instinctively prefer to defend themselves against predators and stand firm. Their aggression towards dogs can sometimes seem aggressive but it is actually self-defense. They perceive dogs as predators and chase them from their pastures.

Donkeys are curious animals and need to take the time to consider all options. To learn new lessons, donkeys need less repetition than horses. They are also more likely to remember the details than horses, which can make it difficult for them to forget bad experiences. Sometimes, their thoughtful and cautious approach can be mistaken for stubbornness. Positive reinforcement is the best way to train or rehab a donkey. A donkey expert can help you deal with any behavioral issues if you are looking to adopt a wild burro, or a rescued donkey.

Are donkeys good companions for horses

Donkeys’ stoicism is another often overlooked trait. Donkeys are excellent at hiding fear, pain, and other signs of illness. To catch serious health issues early, you must be able to recognize subtle signs. It may not be possible to spot signs that you would expect in a horse suffering from colic (which donkeys can also experience), if you wait too long. A donkey that is showing signs of discomfort may be very sick.

Donkeys, like many horses, form strong bonds with their companions. It can be very distressing for a donkey if his companion dies.

Diet is one of the most difficult aspects of donkey management in this country. These animals were raised in dry climates that had limited grass availability. Their systems are more efficient at absorbing roughage than the horses’. Obesity and metabolic problems such as laminitis can be caused by excessive forage or grain. Donkeys should be restricted from eating grain and fed only high-fiber, late-cut grass hay. You may notice your donkey chewing on fences or barns.

Hyperlipemia is a metabolic condition that most horsepeople don’t know about. Hyperlipemia is a potentially fatal disease in which donkeys accumulate body fat when they have to reduce their feed intake. This can lead to lipid deposition in the kidneys, liver, and kidneys as well as organ failure. This could happen due to stress, illness, or disruptions in the donkey’s routine. Avoid drastic changes to his diet. To combat obesity, you should not restrict his food intake. Instead, consult your veterinarian for advice on how to keep an eye on his health and prevent hyperlipemia.

Donkeys need routine hoof trimming and dental treatment, just like horses. Donkeys’ mouth structure can be susceptible to certain conformation defects. Their hooves are slightly different from horses’, so make sure you have an equine dentist or farrier who has been trained with donkeys.

Donkeys can live up to 50 years in developed countries such as the U.S. If you are considering adopting a donkey, be aware that it may require a commitment over a long period of time. You will be rewarded many times over for taking the time to learn about his unique needs and nature.

Undergrad at Cornell University Erin Goodrich rode with the equestrian team. She also worked as a volunteer at a research barn. She has since adopted two donkeys, and learned how to handle them with horses. After graduating from vet school, she worked six years in a mixed animal practice. She was able to work with horses, dairy cows, donkeys, and other small animals. She has been working as an extension veterinarian at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine for the Animal Health Diagnostic Center. For the past two years she is currently developing a new elective course on donkeys for veterinary student. While Dr. Goodrich is busy raising her two children, she still owns a Suffolk Punch draft horse and is looking for a donkey companion.

Allison Price
Allison Price

I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!