‘ To carry a load without resting, to not be bothered by heat or cold, and to always be content; these things we can learn from a donkey.’
– Pakistani proverb
Donkeys, horses and any other animal belonging to the genus Equus all descended from common ancestors. Therefore, having been a horse owner for much of my life, I felt pretty confident that when I bought my two donkeys back in November, I would pretty much know what to do. However, I soon learned that donkeys aren’t horses. They look different, think differently and behave differently.
During the Pleistocene era (2 million- 10,000 years ago), four sub-genuses evolved- the horse, the donkey, Grey’s zebra and the now extinct quagga and other zebras. Most domestic donkeys are direct descendants of the African wild ass, and 10,000 years plus of doing their own evolutional-thing have made the horse and donkey like chalk is to cheese.
But which is better- horses or donkeys?
On a score of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest), let the show down begin!
|Speed and Agility||9||2||Donkeys will generally get you where you need to go, but never in a hurry.|
|Dietary Requirements||3||9||Donkeys are able to efficiently utilise low quality, cellusose-rich food that would cause a horse to starve. Our donkeys literally live off the smell of an oily rag, and even on the trail we have to be careful not to overfeed. We have the opposite problem with old Fly.|
|Hoof Maintenance||2||8||A donkey’s hoof is narrower, more oval, and more upright than a horse’s hoof. They also tend to handle rougher terrain and rarely need shoes or boots.|
|Availability of Equipment||10||2||You name it-whatever you want for your horse, whether it be a pink leopard print neck rug or wool felt pack saddle pad, someone will have it in stock. Horse saddles generally aren’t appropriate for donkeys, who lack the prominent withers that horses have. Horse bridles also tend to be too narrow in the forehead for a donkey and it can be a challenge to fit a conventional bridle over a donkey’s long ears. We found it extremely difficult to find properly fitting donkey gear and as a result had to modify or make most of it ourselves.|
|Toughness||3||10||Donkeys seem to have a pretty strong constitution they will go and go and go without ever letting on that they are tired (not always a good thing though, unfortunately) . Apparently, donkeys can tolerate up to 30% dehydration and those in the wild can go as long as three days without water.|
|Strength||4||8||Rumour has it that a donkey can carry up to 25 percent of its body weight quite comfortably. 15 to 20 percent is thought to be the maximum for horses.|
|Noise Factor||4||1||Make no mistake, donkeys can pump out a fair bit of noise for their size. When they get going, it is like having a squadron of trumpet players in the paddock, and not everyone would want to put up with the 6am alarm bray.|
|Safety||3||7||Take your pick- would you prefer an animal that flees or freezes? When horses get spooked or frightened, their immediate reaction is to get ready to run, whereas when a donkey is scared or confused, he will generally just freeze- hence their reputation for stubbornness. This can be frustrating, but at least you know it won’t end in disaster.|
|Glamour Factor||10||1||While donkeys are cute and all, they perhaps lack the glamour, mystique and mystery that a horse embodies. After all, you wouldn’t want to go galloping off into the sunset on a donkey, right?|
Well there we have it- a draw! Horses or donkeys it all depends on your priorities and what makes you tick.