If you spend much time on sanctuary grounds, you likely know that residents have complex and fascinating personalities and quirks. However, many people have never had the opportunity to experience all the amazing things that make residents unique for themselves. We have created a series of articles compiling fun and fascinating facts about residents to share with supporters and the general public. Donkeys are amazing beings who deserve to be better known!
10 Fun Facts About Donkeys
- Did you know some studies show donkeys are able to process the location of an item and remember where it is a short time after they have lost visual contact? This may sound simple, but it’s evidence that donkeys have the ability to understand that an object exists even when they can’t see it!
- Unlike horses, donkeys evolved to survive desert environments and get up to 95% of their nutrients from a diet consisting of plants generally considered inedible. Their digestive tract evolved to ensure they could get more nutrients out of generally indigestible plant matter. In a sanctuary environment, this means care staff have to keep an eye on the donkey residents who have access to green pastures and often provide a varied diet from that of most horses.
- Okay, let’s talk size. You may have heard of miniature donkeys, but have you heard of mammoth donkeys? The largest mammoth donkey on record, whose name is Romulus, is 68 inches (5 feet 8 inches!) tall at their withers (the highest point of their shoulders)! Their head and ears make them even taller. On average, mammoth donkeys aren’t usually this big, but they’re still bigger than other donkey breeds. Miniature donkeys can get as tall as 36 inches (3 feet) high at their withers (the highest point of their shoulders). The smallest miniature donkey measures a little less than 26 inches (2 feet!) in height, though like the largest mammoth donkey, this is not a typical case! This little donkey friend is appropriately named Kneehi.
- Donkeys have a very strong sense of self-preservation! What is often attributed to stubbornness is actually the careful analysis of a situation and whether it might pose a threat or may be unpleasant for them. If someone is struggling to get a donkey to move, often the individual donkey is either concerned about what lies ahead or are uncertain of what is being asked of them. Donkeys are thinkers and like to have information so they can make safe and desired choices for themselves.
- On the flight or fight scale, donkeys are generally closer to “fight” than “flight” due to how they evolved, existing in small bands where flight would often be an ineffective way to survive threats. In contrast, horses evolved under different environments and historically lived in large herds that were more likely to take flight when they perceived a threat, as this was the most effective means of survival as a species. This doesn’t mean a donkey won’t ever take flight! Each donkey is an individual and may respond to perceived threats differently.
- Donkeys can form very close friendships with one another that last a lifetime. A bonded pair of donkeys are so close to each other that separation from each other can actually cause such acute stress as to make them seriously ill.
- Studies have shown that donkeys, after being separated, can tell the difference between their companion, a familiar donkey from the same social grouping, and an unfamiliar donkey, and will choose to be with their companion. So if you had any doubts about their bonds, you can lay them to rest!
- We can’t have a fun facts list without talking about those glorious ears! Did you know that a donkey’s ears help keep them keep cool, as heat is released through their ears due to the close proximity of blood vessels to the skin?
- A donkey’s sense of hearing is so well developed they can hear the call of another donkey from miles away! Can you imagine shouting and your friend being able to hear you from that distance?! Wild, right? The three main parts of an ear are the external ear (pinna and meatus), and the middle ear, and the inner ear (cochlea). A donkey’s external ear is mobile, allowing them to direct their ear towards a sound and amplify that sound! Talk about an active listener!
- Okay, we have talked about their ears. But what about their mouth or, more precisely, the sounds that come from their mouths? You may have heard of a donkey braying. Their bray is quite loud, and used to carry over long distances. Every donkey has a bray that is unique to them. They do a lot more than just braying though! Donkeys also communicate through growls, whuffles, squeals, and grunts!
Hopefully this gives you and your visitors a better idea about the complex and fascinating lives of donkeys. Did you find any of these fun facts surprising? Or would you like to see a verified fun donkey fact added to this list? Let us know!
Fun Facts About Donkeys Infographic
Looking to share this information in an accessible way with other sanctuaries and supporters? Check out and share our infographic below!
Pair-bonding And Companion Recognition In Domestic Donkeys, Equus Asinus | Applied Animal Behaviour Science (Non-Compassionate Source)