Horses vs. Donkeys: Similarities and Differences

Last Updated on July 28, 2020 by Allison Price

Looking at horses and donkeys – there are some obvious similarities. Although they are similar in some ways, these two creatures are quite distinct.

How are horses and donkey different?

Horses are taller than donkey. And it is easier to ride on horses than donkeys. The saddle does not sit tight on a donkey.

But these are just the surface of their differences. Let’s know more and look at some very interesting facts!


Let’s take a closer look the similarities between horses and donkeys:

They come from the same ancestors

Horses and donkeys come from the same ancestors in the family tree.

Physical Similarities

They have obvious physical similarities. They are both four-legged and hoofed mammals. They both have one hoof per foot which means they can wear horseshoe.

Their strong feet are perfect for carrying loads or riders.

Horses and donkeys have long faces, large ears, and long backs with tails at the end of them. Their eyes and ears are positioned in the same locations. And they both have manes along the top of their necks.

They work great with humans

Both of these creatures are great with humans. History tells us that both horses and donkeys are used as work animals on the farm.

We can even read in the Bible that Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The disciples of Jesus were asked to look for a donkey in the nearby city.

So, we can assume that people in the Middle East has lots of donkeys inside the town walls. They carry a load and carry out daily tasks.

Both are social animals

Horses and donkey prefer social interaction with other animals and humans. They love to be cuddled. And they love it when we are talking to them.

Social interaction is also very important. Because it keeps your animals healthy and able to reproduce.


Although they look like the same species, there is a list of their differences.

Different manes

Horses have long pretty hair. So long that you can braid it and do a lot of things with it. But this is not the case with donkeys.

Donkey’s mane is shorter and stiffer. You won’t be able to braid and organize the hair. Because of its stiffness, it will just stand up no matter what you do with it.

Donkeys prefer to ride backward

You may have not observed it yet.

Donkeys prefer to ride backwards when you put them into a horse trailer. You should also be careful when straining them. Because they need more freedom than a horse especially during travel.

Aim for arrest every 4-5 hours. The donkey needs to get some fresh air and get out of the trailer. Most of the time, they don’t want to drink water during the transport. And this is typically not a problem.

Donkeys can go a long time without water. They can lose 30% of their body weight from dehydration without any trouble. Also, they might refuse to drink anything after several days from transport.

Donkeys are slower

There is also a difference in their speed.

Donkeys are slower than horses.

Donkeys are better at carrying load at a slow pace than carrying a rider over the fields. That is why donkeys are used to carry goods like corn and food.

Great load varies

Due to donkey’s strong construction, it’s able to carry up to twice its own body weight. Quite impressive, right?

But you need to pay careful attention to them because not all donkeys are able to do this. Especially for long distances.

Pay attention to the breathing of your horse or donkey. By this, you can tell if they are loaded too heavy.


Donkeys are more stubborn. They are known to be more intelligent than horses. That is why people often choose a horse because they are easier to teach and control.

It has something to do with their genes. Donkeys are almost always more independent and not so willing to do what you want.

Horses are pack animals. It means, they are used to having a leader or a master. When you are training a horse, you become its new master. And this is something that’s not possible with donkeys. Not to the same extent as with horses.

Physical appearance

Donkeys are shorter than horses.

Donkeys are harder to ride. And horses are much more efficient animal to ride over longer distances.

What makes it harder to ride donkeys is it’s not as sturdy and comfortable to sit on compared to a horse. You will need a special saddle for a donkey because the arched part of the back is shorter too.

Different sounds

A donkey’s famous sound is “yee-haa.” You may have heard it. It is very different from the sound of a horse.

Horses say “neigh.”

Which is a better fit for my farm?

You may want to add an equine to your farm. And a well-thought plan can make the difference.

Owning an animal can come at a great cost if your choices are not a good fit for your farm. Choosing the right species is the key to success. And it all begins with assessing the job the animal will be used for. And the basics that are needed to keep them happy and healthy.

Horses and donkeys are both equines but they vary in many ways.


Donkeys differ greatly from horses when it comes to their behavior. They are highly intelligent and more stubborn than horses. This mindset tends to make them assess situations before panicking or taking flight. They see a danger well and they are very sure-footed

Horses can be a bit flightier than donkeys. But a well-conditioned and trained horse can be a reliable mount.


Although horses and donkeys are almost the same, they have distinction in their physical appearance and behavior. And the way they are. They both have many admirable qualities. Horses and donkeys can provide almost the same level of service to their owners. But it is in their mindset and personality that they differ. I recommend that you spend some good quality time with both. So, you can find out for sure if a horse or a donkey should be in your future.

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!