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.
A DONKEY ADOPTION UPDATE:
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