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How Donkeys Get Along With Other Species

Two donkeys looking at the camera.

Updated September 21, 2020

If you’re caring for donkeys with limited pasture, you may be wondering how they get along with other species of animals. Because individual animals each have their own unique personalities, preferences, and histories of trauma, this resource may not apply universally to all donkeys and the other species they interact with, but it should provide a good starting point in regards to how well a donkey will get along with other animals. If you’re planning on keeping a donkey with anyone new, regardless of species, make sure to carefully monitor their interactions until you are satisfied that there will be no trouble when you go off to attend to other sanctuary needs!

Horn Holdups

If you are caring for donkeys in the same pasture as residents with horns like goats, sheep, or cows, be aware that there’s a chance these residents could accidentally injure other sanctuary residents, usually when interacting or playing. Any time you introduce a horned resident with others, closely monitor them until you feel confident that they won’t pose an unintentional threat! Some horned residents are more inclined to frequent interactions than others, and some residents are more mindful of their horns than others. And keep in mind that even if they’re the most gentle resident in the world, accidents can happen!

Donkeys And Other Donkeys

It’s vastly preferable for a donkey to have more donkey companions, provided that they have enough space, food, water, and mineral access so they don’t feel the need to compete. Donkeys are inclined to follow a social hierarchy, especially in environments with more limited resources. Once they’ve established who’s in charge, they will typically peacefully coexist. If a donkey simply cannot get along with others, you may need to give them their own pasture or indoor living space, while trying your best to balance their need for companionship.

Donkeys And Horses

Donkeys and horses tend to make fine companions, provided that they have enough space, food, water, and mineral access so they don’t feel the need to compete and have the opportunity to avoid one another. Some donkeys and horses develop very close relationships. Just be sure to recognize the unique care needs of donkeys and how they differ from those of horses!

Donkeys And Other Farmed Sanctuary Mammals

Donkeys and other sanctuary mammals such as goats, pigs, llamas, and alpacas, can potentially live harmoniously on the same pasture, but they will require careful introduction and early supervision to ensure a good fit. Some donkeys are more territorial than others, which could either translate into dangerously hostile behavior or herd-protective behavior, depending on the individual and circumstances. Donkeys rescued out of abusive or neglectful situations could react very poorly to other animals being in their space (and could even potentially cause fatalities in tragic circumstances), especially if they have become habituated to extreme resource scarcity. Always err on the side of resident safety and keep separate pastures if you’re not sure whether any particular residents would be able to safely live together for the long run!

If you do keep multiple species together peacefully, you should avoid mixing any kind of commercial food or mineral access between species (certain additives in food and minerals formulated for cows are toxic to equines and food and minerals formulated for equines could cause copper toxicity in sheep). It’s also important to employ fencing that is appropriate and safe for all species being kept in the same pasture. Feeding schedules might be complicated to coordinate with some residents such as large breed pigs, so even if you’re having everyone in the same pasture, you’ll probably want to keep them in separate living quarters!

Donkeys And Farmed Sanctuary Birds

Just like with farmed mammal species, whether a donkey will tolerate, appreciate, or be outright hostile to living with sanctuary birds like chickens, ducks, geese, and turkeys, is very much a question of individual donkeys. Some donkeys have no trouble sharing an outdoor space with birds such as chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese provided that all species have their specific needs taken care of (like dust baths accessible for chickens or turkeys or accessible ponds for ducks and geese). Others may have too much trauma in their background or a more territorial personality and would not be a good fit to ever safely live with birds.

If they do get along very well, you still must ensure that there is plenty of space to avoid any situations where a bird (especially a mobility-impaired or broody resident) might get caught underfoot. Like most animals, donkeys will avoid eating food that has been defecated on by another animal if they can, so if you’re going to keep donkeys and birds together, try to avoid letting the birds spend time where the donkeys eat.

Donkeys And Dogs

As a general rule, it’s not a good idea to let dogs interact with any animal at a farmed animal sanctuary. As the species in your care are prey animals, there is a high chance that there will be a negative reaction, either from the dog or the resident, and it is never worth risking an animal’s safety when there is any possibility to avoid conflict.

When it comes to letting dogs spend time around donkeys specifically, it is entirely dependent on the individual personalities at play. Though generally, many donkeys perceive dogs as threats, some dogs and donkeys have been known to get along very well, without any issues. However, other personalities might not ever be safe around one another, especially dogs who are more prone to chasing or aggression, which could stress out the donkey, cause injuries, or worse. Donkeys tend to be protective of their herd and the space that they’re living in, and can attack anyone who feels threatening to them, including well-meaning dogs. If you believe there is a good candidate dog to spend time with your donkeys, plan for a great deal of supervision, with the knowledge that some dogs may live peacefully with donkeys one day and decide to chase the donkeys the next day, or the donkey may decide to defend their territory unexpectedly one day. Many donkeys might be too skittish or afraid to ever peacefully spend time in the same pasture as a dog.

Donkeys And Cats

Donkeys should be able to coexist fairly easily with cats; most likely they’ll do their own thing apart from one another (assuming the cat has space to avoid being stepped on by the donkey), though there are plenty of donkeys and cats that are quite friendly who frequently interact with one another! As with all other species above, it’s important to note that especially territorial donkeys might not be good candidates to ever spend time with cats.

Donkeys And Wildlife

Given the large outdoor spaces donkeys typically require, they will likely share their space with other animals who call the sanctuary grounds home. While in many cases, donkeys and wildlife can safely co-exist, some animals can pose a serious threat to donkeys.

Predators Of Donkeys

Certain animals are especially dangerous to donkeys and will attack or try to eat them if given the chance or frightened. This includes stray dogs, coyotes, wolves, cougars, bobcats, snakes, and bears. The best defense is a properly monitored outdoor living space and secured indoor living space. This includes fencing that cannot be dug under, predator-secure latches, and vigilance! 

Other Wildlife

While there may be specific considerations based on your area, aside from potential predators, donkeys can typically share outdoor living spaces with most wildlife without issue. One important exception is the opossum, who can carry Sarcocystis neurona, a protozoan that causes Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis.

Indoor spaces may need more attention because wild birds and rodents may take up residence inside indoor living spaces, which depending on the species and population size may cause certain issues, including disease spread. Rats can be especially destructive if they have access to electrical wires or any insulation, and could even cause injury to vulnerable residents, so it’s important to take measures to deter them as much as possible and to protect areas where they could cause serious issues. For more information on compassionate wildlife strategies, check out our resource here!

SOURCES:

Understanding Donkey Behaviour | The Donkey Sanctuary

Concerns With Keeping Different Types Of Livestock Together | Knoji (Non-Compassionate Source)

Managing Multi-Species Grazing | On Pasture (Non-Compassionate Source)

Non-Compassionate Source?

If a source includes the (Non-Compassionate Source) tag, it means that we do not endorse that particular source’s views about animals, even if some of their insights are valuable from a care perspective. See a more detailed explanation here.

Updated on September 21, 2020

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