04 May 2013

Keeping donkeys

I found a web page called « Avoir un âne chez soi » — a phrase that could mean "having a jackass in the house." At first, I was afraid it might be.... well, never mind. It turns out to be a serious site about the logistical and financial issues you need to consider before you decide to keep an ass as a pet. Or a donkey — the dictionary says the donkey is the domesticated ass (Equus asinus).

Our neighbors to the northwest keep two donkeys, and adjacent to the vineyard they have a fenced-in meadow where the donkeys can graze once in a while. The donkeys are friendly — they like it when you pet them on the head and snout, patting them affectionately between the eyes. Callie's afraid of them. Maybe instinctively she knows that donkeys don't gladly tolerate dogs.

According to the keeping-a-donkey web site, a donkey's life span is about 40 years, so acquiring one is not a trivial matter. They are weaned at seven months, and you can expect to pay 350 to 450 euros to buy one. An adult donkey will cost nearly twice that at five years of age, and a donkey with a good pedigree can cost a lot more.

A donkey needs a hectare of pasture — that's about 2½ acres — for grazing. Since the donkey can turn a pasture into a sea of mud during the rainy season, the animal also needs a paddock where it can live, and some outdoor space so it can go outside, rain or shine. The donkey decides when it wants to go outside, and you have to keep donkeys penned in because they like to wander, explore, and graze on the neighbors' property when they can.

A donkey likes to graze on green plants, but it also will need 10 or 12 pounds (five kilos) of hay to eat daily, and five to ten liters of fresh, clean water to drink. Along with veterinary fees... well, it gets to be an expensive proposition. You have to be serious about it. Don't forget, too, that donkeys can make a lot of noise, and their hee-hawing is not particularly melodic.

The best I can figure, people keep donkeys just for the fun of it. I don't see anything about any practical reason for keeping one. I guess you could say the same thing about a dog or a cat. They are pets — animaux de compagnie. Keeping a donkey is just a hobby. Correct me if I'm wrong.


  1. As the extreme religious right in the U.S. suggests soon man will be able inevitably to marry animals. Donkeys may be the right choice?

  2. I didn't know donkeys were pedigreed. Why?

  3. We've come to the conclusion that donkeys are just pets here. They are amazingly popular. You've covered the salient points of keeping a donkey very well -- people don't always realise how much land you need and how much water they drink especially. The other thing I was taught when I was spending time in stables was that you shouldn't really keep donkeys and horses together as donkeys can carry diseases that are fatal to horses but not to donkeys. You need to check on a donkey every day -- it's a big commitment.

  4. Another point to remember is that...
    if not used on the road...
    a donkey needs its hooves trimming twice a year!
    A friend of mine had one at his pub... it was his as a child... and came with the manorhouse when he inherited... when he opened the Hall as a pub, the donkey became a regular at the tables outside!!
    And there was a jar on the bar for small change towards hoof trimming.

    Ken, do the two together bray much.... if at all?
    There is a solitary donkey beyond our neigh....bours to the east that brays very regularly...
    sessions five or six times a day...
    in almost the same distance West of us is a donkey that has the companionship of two goats...
    we've never heard it bray at all!!

    And Bob's stopped braying when the Hall opened as a pub... donkeys need companionship!!

  5. Tim, these two donkeys do bray but I don't hear them every day. A few times a week, however. Only once have I ever seen them get out of their pasture and into the vines. One day, years ago, our other dog, Collette, went into the pasture. When the donkey saw the dog, he charged her and scared the wits out of her. She couldn't find her way back through the fence. I finally had to pick her up over it to rescue her from the angry âne.

    Starman, like any domestic animal the donkey can be bred to favor the development certain desirable characteristics.

  6. oh no, friend, there IS a compelling reason to keeping a cute little ass.. i mean.. donkey. they are actually great herd protection animals! folks keep them with their goats or sheep and the donkey will protect the herds from coyotes and dogs! and folks love them as friends and grazers. as for me i'd have one just so i could make all kinds of stupid jokes... ;-)


  7. Vaut mieux rire que braire, la grimace est plus belle!

  8. haha chm....a donkey would need a life vest around here this week as we've had soo much rain

  9. Thanks for that info, OhioFarmGirl. I never thought about coyotes, since we don't have them here. But I do know that donkeys are not fond of dogs.

  10. When a donkey lays his ears back, watch out-he's not happy and may bite or kick;-) One of the donkeys looks like an old fellow. A hundred fifty years ago these guys would have full time jobs pulling carts to market.

  11. Evelyn, I think you are right. These neighbors ( we don't know them) had just one donkey when we arrived here ten years ago. Then suddenly there were two of them. Callie has always steered clear of them, that's for sure.

  12. Various donkey related sites list well over 50 distinct breeds of donkeys, many in danger of extinction as donkeys' traditional role as driving or riding animals is no longer in high demand. France boasts one very unusual breed of donkey called the 'Baudet de Poitou' which was traditionally bred with the 'Poietvin' draft horse to produce large and powerful work mules (sterile donkey/horse crosses). The 'Baudet' almost went extinct no so long ago and the French created a breeders network to bring it back from the brink--which has worked but numbers are still very low. The donkey develops long dreadlocks that can hang almost to the ground--it's very distinctive!

  13. I often think of the blog you (or Walt) posted the time that Callie had the wits scared out of her by the donkey :)

  14. Glenn says donkeys are good work animals. Pound for pound they are more efficient than horses. I've seen people in Mexico riding them. I rode one myself one time in a faculty-student basketball game. (There were two game. When we women teachers played the girls, the donkeys wore blankets and were quite docile. When the male teachers played the boys, off came the blankets-the signal for the donkeys to buck and refuse to go!)
    Glenn used to live near a ranch in Alberta called The Hillbilly Spotted Ass Ranch. Hillbilly spotted asses are a breed of donkey.

  15. If you look on the net there is a vigneron at Reuilly that use donkeys instead of tractors to tend their vines. The family name is Smith, but they are French! They have a porte ouvertes later this month.I received an invitation a few weeks ago If you are interested I can get them to send you details. Very nice wine at about 5 euros a bottle. They always have a stand at the Donkey fete at poulaines at easter.


  16. They need their hooves trimmed and teeth floated at least once a year. At least that is what I learned from the blog 7MSN. The writer has a ranch "seven miles south of nowhere" in New Mexico, with donkeys, a horse, dog and pot belly pig. She can saddle one of the donkeys and go on trail rides.


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