Donkeys have been used as working animals for centuries. Their versatility and hardiness make them ideal for guarding livestock, but misconceptions about their behavior and ability persist. Some people believe that donkeys are aggressive toward other animals, especially horses. Others think that they’re skittish, easily frightened, or prone to panic when around other animals. A few even think that donkeys attack and kill other livestock.
Are these myths correct? Do donkeys protect livestock or pose a danger instead? Let’s take a look at the truth about donkeys protecting livestock, including common misconceptions about them and why you might want to consider adding one to your farm.
Why Donkeys Are Good Guards
First and foremost, donkeys are great guards because they are territorial and selective. When protecting livestock, donkeys focus on their own species and instincts. If a coyote approaches, for example, donkeys will chase off the predator and protect the herd. Guard animals allow for better pasture management because you don’t have to confine and feed them separately. This is especially helpful for small-scale farmers with few resources.
Donkeys are also excellent watch animals. They spend most of their time grazing and will sound an alarm if they spot a predator. You can use donkeys to protect pigs and sheep from predators too. Even though donkeys are territorial, they are also herding animals. They like to be part of a group, so they usually get along with other donkeys and livestock. Donkeys excel at pasture work. They can mow, weed, and fertilize a pasture. Donkeys are relatively inexpensive to keep, and they eat less than horses.
What Is a Guard Donkey?
Guard donkeys are the best option for protecting livestock, but you’ll want to make sure you choose the right breed. Certain donkeys are bred specifically for guarding livestock. Breeds like the miniature donkey and the guarding donkey defend livestock from predators and are excellent for guarding goats. Some guard donkeys are even kept indoors to protect chickens!
Donkeys are territorial but they are not aggressive by nature. They will defend themselves if provoked, but they do not go out of their way to attack other animals.
Top 3 Myths and Misconceptions About Donkeys
1. Donkeys Attack Other Animals Without a Cause
Not all donkeys are born with a bossy, aggressive personality. Some are naturally more docile than others, while others may have learned to be aggressive in order to defend themselves against bullying. If another animal is consistently bothering a donkey, they may try to fight back. Donkeys do not necessarily want to hurt other livestock, but they will do what they need to in order to protect themselves.
2. Donkeys Are Easily Frightened
Donkeys can be easily frightened but they’re not skittish or panicky. They’re less easily spooked than horses, but like horses, they have a herd mentality. If a donkey is startled by a noise or a sudden movement, they will react as part of the herd. Most times, this means escaping danger, which is why a herd of donkeys will stampede when they feel threatened.
When a donkey is spooked, they often freeze in place, ears pinned back against their head and eyes wide to assess the danger. As herd animals, they integrate with the herd. This is what makes them good guardian animals. However, donkeys will stand their guard and fight if the threat persists.
3. Donkeys Don’t Get Along With Horses
Some donkeys don’t get along with horses, just like some horses don’t get along with other horses. Horses and donkeys both have individual personalities. Some are dominant and pushy, and others are submissive and make easy targets for bullying. Anyone familiar with equine herds knows that some animals get along well, and others can’t be kept together at all.
Many horse owners have successfully integrated a donkey into their herd, but like introducing a new horse, there’s no guarantee that the herd will get along.
Donkeys are great options for protecting goats, sheep, and other small livestock, but these animals are territorial and selective and don’t get along with everyone. That said, they will do a great job of alerting to a threat and will fend off predators in the event of an attack. They are easy keepers and can typically survive off the same feed as the herd that they are guarding, making them ideal protectors.
Featured Image Credit: der niels, Pixabay