Scientific name: Equus asinus
Other common names: Irish Donkey
The English / Irish Donkey is a small, thick-coated donkey which is a descendant of the Sicilian Miniature Donkey which was brought to Britain by the invading Romans in around 400 BCE. The English / Irish Donkey adapted to the colder, damper conditions in the British Isles by growing a thick, long coat, which sheds in the warmer months. According to the Donkey All Breeds Society of Australia, "The English and Irish Donkey is compact and small, but strong and sturdy, with an excellent temperament. It is a very active and willing Donkey."
Please see the separate page for the Miniature Donkey.
Appearance / health:
The English / Irish Donkey has a thick, long coat, which sheds in the warmer months. The English / Irish Donkey ranges from 36 inches to 44 inches at the shoulder (slightly larger than the 36 inch tall Sicilian Miniature Donkey. They vary in body coloration, from black to gray, brown, white, or spotted, but have a dense, thick coat. Like most donkeys, English / Irish Donkeys have a dark dorsal stripe and a shoulder cross. The ears are large and long. The back is straight. The mane is course and stiff.
A donkey’s health is dependent on its habitat and nutrition. They are typically hardy and resilient but can suffer from health problems if overfed. Vaccinations, de-worming medications, and hoof care are essential in keeping the donkey clean and healthy. The care and monitoring of a veterinarian is recommended.
Behavior / temperament:
Donkeys have become popular as pets and companion animals, even as guard animals because of their high intelligence. They became notorious for being stubborn, although this stubbornness is said to be the result of their strong sense of self-preservation –- no one can force them to do something they perceive as a threat to their survival, especially going into water.
Sicilian Miniatures are known for their sweet, calm, and affectionate disposition. They are good-natured but will kick and bite when threatened. They emit a loud and persistent call referred to as a bray.
Housing / diet:
Donkeys are grazing animals and require pasture for food and fresh air. The recommended pasture area is an acre per donkey per month. Mammoth Jacks require slightly larger areas. A barn or similar enclosure must be available to shelter them from harsh climates.
Donkeys do best with vegetation that is low in protein and high in fiber such as Timothy Hay or Bermuda Hay. A salt block should always be available for mineral supplements. Clean fresh water should also be available at all times. Treats like bite-size carrots can be offered sparingly. Donkeys enjoy eating and if allowed to self-feed will become obese and susceptible to various health risks.
Our Donkey Thistles
My wife was always talking about getting Donkey. With three young girls in the house such an animal would prove a popular pet. But we never got around to looking for one. In recent years, pre-recession, donkeys were selling for as much as €500 and above. Too expensive for us at the time. Many people were breeding donkeys and making good money.
Then came the recession and the price of donkeys went close to zero. Those breeding them could no longer make any money, nor could they afford to keep and maintain their stock. And in such situations many turn the animals loose. The Donkey Sanctuaries and the Animal Rescue groups are full to capacity and can barely cope now with the influx of abandoned animals.
Our donkey basically turned up on our doorstep. My wife saw him on the road close to our house. He’s been hanging around for a couple of days. He looked nice, friendly and in decent shape. We managed to get him into the field beside your house. Our girls quickly christened him Thistles, because he began eating the thistles that were growing in the field. He’s also fond of bushes. There was a pile of small branches and withered briars in the corner of the field. In a matter of a few weeks the pile had all but disappeared, consumed by Thistles.
Two years on he’s still here and has settled in well. A year later we also took in small pony which was offered to us by the lady who runs a local animal rescue centre. Donkeys like company as they are social animals. We’d considered getting another donkey, but then the pony was offered to us, on a temporary basis, and again a year on he’s still here and the two have bonded well. It’s a pleasant site to watch them biting and scratching each other’s necks in a playful manner.
As Thistle is a male donkey, when he came to us, he was a full stallion. So he had to be neutered. We got the Vet to do this job. As we don’t have any pens to contain animals, we had to bring him to the local Animal Rescue Centre to it done. This cost around €90.00.In the winter months and when the grass is scarce we give him meal and hay. Again there is expense involved here.Thistle was also and still remains a bit nervous around humans. He comes for his food and will let you stroke him, but then he may dash away from you. Perhaps he was badly treated, or got a scare elsewhere. The lady from the local Rescue Centre spent some time showing us tips and gave us advice on how to best handle donkeys. He has improved quite a bit, but we would need to be spending more time working on these things.
But we don’t regret taking him in, and there is no way we will ever get rid of him. The girls wouldn't allow us anyhow. Also donkeys can live up to 50 years of age, so maybe and hopefully he’ll also be there for the grandchildren.
But as always animals need care and attention and there are the usual expenses, such as food, Vets bills, and Farrier services for trimming the hooves when they get too long. With large animals like these, they need to be minded when you go on holidays. We are lucky in that whenever we go away the neighbouring woman comes each day and keep an eye on him. Otherwise he would have to be given over to a Sanctuary for the duration of the holiday, which would again cost money.
So as always, before making a decision on getting a pet, you must weigh up the pros and cons. Do you have adequate space, the finance and indeed the time and interest to care for and maintain the animal? Donkeys are healthy and hardy creatures and low maintenance .They are great to have around a small farm. They do bray quite a bit and for that reason it’s probably not a good idea to keep one in a suburban or built up area..
From Brian Reynolds Oct 16 2014 5:39AM