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Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

The Daily Vet by petMD

The Daily Vet is a blog featuring veterinarians from all walks of life. Every week they will tackle entertaining, interesting, and sometimes difficult topics in the world of animal medicine – all in the hopes that their unique insights and personal experiences will help you to understand your pets.

A Discourse on Donkeys

Donkeys are special creatures. Whether you love them or hate them (I know people of both persuasions), there is no denying that there’s just something about a donkey. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m pretty sure it has to do with the fact that their ears are like the eighth wonder of the world — and I know donkeys are smarter than humans. They just don’t have opposable thumbs.

I haven’t had too many donkeys as patients, but I’ve had enough to learn a few things about them. The clients who have donkeys love them to bits and there’s a bit of a donkey counter-culture within the horse world that’s very interesting. You see, not all horse people like donkeys. In fact, some horse people look down their noses at donkeys, and even mules. It’s a snob thing, I suspect. But donkey lovers are some of the most down to earth, practical people you will ever meet.

There are big donkeys and mini donkeys, and then there are spectacular spotted donkeys, my personal favorite. I’ve had well-behaved donkeys and ornery donkeys, but I’ve also had my share of ornery horses, goats, llamas and cows, so I can’t say that in my small realm there has been evidence to prove that donkeys are any more ornery than any other farm species. In fact, I’m willing to declare that cats are in general more ornery than donkeys.

Some donkey facts: A male donkey is called a jack and a female donkey is called a jenny or jennet. Technically speaking, donkeys are the species Equus asinus while horses are the species Equus ferus. Donkeys and horses can successfully mate and produce offspring, but like most other interspecies matings, these offspring (mules) are usually sterile.

Many folks are familiar with the usual image of donkeys used as pack animals and beasts of burden. However, in developed countries of today, donkeys have gained more comfortable employment opportunities. For one, donkeys make great guard animals. Some sheep farmers have donkeys in the fields with the flock because donkeys will run off predators such as foxes and stray dogs. Alpaca owners also will sometimes employ a donkey or two as opposed to a guard dog.

Another donkey employment opportunity is donkey basketball. I’m serious. Please do yourself a favor and look this up on the Internet. Apparently, since I’ve never witnessed such an event in person, donkeys take to the basketball court and people ride them while playing the sport, so I guess it sounds exactly like the name makes it sound. This discovery has led me to ask many questions, such as:

  • How does one dribble the ball?
  • Is there a height restriction on the donkey?
  • If one donkey bites another donkey, is that considered a foul?

During my next donkey appointment, I may inquire into this new sport. Maybe I should start scouting and form a team. So, what’s a decent team name for donkey basketball?

Dr. Anna O’Brien

Image: Stephen Mcsweeny / via Shutterstock


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