Earlier this week, we admitted yet another donkey for lifelong care who had lived for most of his life (20+ years) with cattle. And, once again, we found ourselves faced with a creature who had suffered as a result of living for too long in an unhealthy, unsuitable environment.
Cattle are fed an extremely rich diet, as everyone knows. Donkeys, on the other hand, thrive on coarse grasses and scrub. When a donkey has no choice but to eat the food given to cattle, the donkey will gain weight rapidly. Fat pockets will form on the hips, the belly will bulge and, most of all, the crest of muscle on the animal’s neck will become encased in fat. Within a relatively short time, the crest will fall over, remaining permanently out of place.
Donkeys are herd animals and they thrive with their own kind. When a donkey is placed with a herd of cattle, the donkey might bond with one other animal and, if threatened, might want to protect that one other animal. But donkeys do not have the instinct to protect an entire herd. This instinct is strong in certain breeds of dogs: eg. Great Pyrenees, Anatolian, Akbash or Maremma. These donkeys make outstanding guardians and they are very comfortable living with cattle. (www.lgd.org)
Finally, a donkey’s hooves should be trimmed by a farrier every 6-8 weeks. This is not required for cattle and, too often, we see donkeys whose hooves are horribly overgrown, causing constant pain and damage to the animal’s back and spine.
There are many, positive reasons to give a donkey a home and to give it care. But compelling it to live with cattle is not one of them. Cattle are much better protected by canine guardians and donkeys live best, without stress, when they can be with a donkey companion.
Sandra Pady, Executor Director