Donkeys are excellent guardians of sheep, goats and cattle. Here’s what you need to know about these intelligent animals.
You may think of donkeys when you think of words like "stubborn" and "aggressive." Although often considered negative traits, these behavioural characteristics make donkeys excellent guardians
• They don’t wander. Donkeys don't like changes in their surroundings, so they tend not to roam as much as guard dogs. They also don’t root or dig, so you don’t have to worry about them trying to escape.
• They’re easy to care for. Donkeys require no special care and have similar maintenance and feeding needs to their pasture mates. For example, they can eat the same feed as sheep, goats and cattle and be turned out to graze on the same pastures.
• They have a long lifespan. With an average life expectancy of 20 to 30 years, donkeys live longer than dogs. Moreover, with proper management, donkeys can provide up to 15 years of protection for your herd.
• They have a natural herding instinct. It’s natural for donkeys to be territorial and have a strong herding instinct. Therefore, if they’re properly bonded to the livestock they protect, they’ll remain loyal.
• They stand their ground. Unlike horses, which instinctively flee from perceived danger, donkeys tend to stand their ground. When it comes to a choice between fight and flight, donkeys often choose to fight.
• They naturally dislike canines. Donkeys have an inherent dislike for canines. If a wolf or coyote enters their territory, donkeys often bray loudly and charge to chase it away. When attacking, donkeys strike with both their front feet, kick with their hind feet and bite. However, while aggressive with canines, most donkeys are docile and gentle with humans.
Considerations when buying a guard donkey
Here are a few considerations when looking for a donkey to protect your herd:
1. Size. Small and large standard-size donkeys make the best guard animals. As a rule of thumb, guard donkeys should be at least two years old and at least 112 centimetres tall at the shoulder.
2. Gender. Female donkeys and gelded males provide the best protection because of their even temperament.
3. Herd or flock size. You must consider how many animals you have in your care. Donkeys are best suited for herds of less than 100 animals.
Keep in mind that not all donkeys are suitable for guarding as there are significant behavioural differences between individuals. It’s a good idea to get your animal from a breeder that raises donkeys specifically to work as livestock guardians.
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