Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Donkeys as livestock guardians (...and an adoption update)

Do donkeys make good livestock guardians?

Now that I operate a Satellite Adoption Center for Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, I am getting this question more and more from people inquiring about donkey adoption.

With coyote and mountain lion attacks appearing to be on the increase, people are looking for new ways to protect their flocks and herds.

Yet, information about donkeys in general, let alone as livestock guardians, is very hard to find. This is why I was so tickled when the book I reserved back in June finally arrived at my local library:

There is a lot of mixed and conflicting information out there on precisely what type of animal makes a good livestock guardian and whether or not donkeys are, in fact, good for this job. For example, I've heard from one knowledgeable source that older Jennets (female donkeys) are the most reliable around livestock. My experience is exactly to the contrary, though, and it pleasantly surprised me when I found the below passage in the book:

To find an authoritative book that not only details some specifics, but confirms some of my own experience, is incredibly satisfying. I have found geldings (male, neutered donkeys) to be far more consistent behaviorally and less, shall we say, moody, than the jennets. But please don't misunderstand, I think it's important not to over generalize when it comes to animal behavior. There are no guarantees or definitives. Animals are unpredictable. There isn't one type of donkey that is ALWAYS the best for becoming a livestock guardian. Fundamentally, what I've found is that it seems to be a donkey personality thing.

How does one define and determine a donkey personality? What makes a donkey the way he or she is? If pressed, I would answer that it is a combination of both nature and nurture...similar to how I believe human children grow into the adults they do. Donkeys are shaped by the basic nature they are born with and the experiences they have as they live and grow.

To determine whether one donkey over another will be better suited for livestock guardianship requires human time and attention. It will involve getting to know your donkey, through observation and interaction, and becoming familiar with many of his or her behaviors prior to introducing new animals.

There are some donkeys who, quite simply, can't be around smaller animals due to aggressiveness. Unfortunately, this behavior can be difficult to identify prior to introducing them to the smaller animals they are meant to protect, so extreme caution should be exercised until you know how all animals are going to react to one another.


Quite apropos of this topic on donkeys as livestock guardians, I received an email update last week from the family who adopted Velvet's Baby (renamed Elvis), the very first donkey I adopted out:
"Elvis has come to love his goats. When they get scared they go running to his side for protection. You would be as proud of him as we are. Thanks again for all your help."

Elvis and his goaties


  1. Good job Danni! And I really loved seeing Elvis with the little tiny goats!! How Sweet!

  2. What a cute picture of Elvis and his goats.
    I watched my neighbor's donkey chase a coyote out of their pasture one day.

  3. This is a great photo of Elvis. I had no idea they were protective like that.

  4. Awww.....YAY Elvis!! He looks so happy. As always, thanks for sharing the donkey info. I love learning about them.

  5. Way to go, Elvis. Those little goats must be so happy to have Elvis as their friend.

    And I saw they mentioned llamas on that book.....

  6. Good reading today Danni. I have read other bloggers' talk about their guardian llamas or livestock guardian dogs, but you are the only one I know so far to talk about donkeys. You're unique!

    And Elvis....AWWWWWWW!!! Look at him with those cute little goaties! How sweet! That picture made my day, thanks!

  7. Well, as long as those donkeys only protect and don't try to do any herding, I guess it is okay with me.

  8. Love your site and great pics! I just this summer got a mini donkey from a not so great situation love her! I can say if noise is a predator deterrent nothing will ever venture in my pasture again. :)

  9. Love your site and great pics! I just this summer got a mini donkey from a not so great situation love her! I can say if noise is a predator deterrent nothing will ever venture in my pasture again. :)

  10. I love your donkey posts! There is just something about those sweet faces. I need to find someone locally that has a donk or two that I could check out up close.

  11. Great Elvis-with-goats photo! Good topic. Females are moody,huh? Who knew?

  12. That looks like a great book! I'll have try to find it. And Elvis with his goats was just too cute!

  13. I have been watching that book on Ebay to buy. :)

    Jamine is definitely moody but she is still pretty tolerant of the sheep and poultry.

    Being on many sheep/donkey lists the only trouble I hear about with geldings is if they are young they can play pretty hard. For lambs/kids this can be fatal. But like you said each is an individual and can be totally different. The same can be said for llamas and livestock guardian dogs...some work, some don't.

    Loved the pic of Elvis and his charges!:)

  14. I love reading about your donkeys and I know you are pleased to see the happy home for Elvis!

  15. I love your donkey posts too.

    I did not know they are guardian type creatures...which is good to know if I want goats. I wonder if they would watch over poultry?? Hmmmm!

  16. Just love your insite on donks and admire your dedication to these animals. And NO Agnes, I don't need one in my yard.

  17. I've heard that about donks, although I don't think they'd stand up against a cougar. Elvis looks so cute with his goatie buddies. :)

  18. Well, I learned something here. I had no idea a female donkey was a Jennet.

    That last photo of Elvis with his 'flock' is really heartwarming. Thanks for the update.

  19. I remember the day Velvet's Baby arrived. I believe he was second after Pistol to enter the stall. Then Brownie arrived and the "feathers" started flying. There was a lot of pushing, shoving and hoof banging.
    And look how sweet (most of the time) everyone is now. Your love and care for these and all animals is magical.

    Seeing Elvis now with his goats is so heart warming. That photo made my day!

  20. That is the cutest thing seeing Elvis heard his little goats. So sweet.

  21. Danni,

    I am on the verge of buying a dairy goat herd and well - I need a protector for the girls and their soon to be kidlets ;)

    Any and all Donkey Guardian advice is welcome!

    mermaid dot girl at gmail dot com


I ♥ it when you leave a comment.