Why Donkeys?

 

Wilderness Expeditions choose donkeys for the following reasons:

 

  • Donkeys are loveable- being shorter than horses they are less imposing and intimidating than horses 

  • Donkeys enjoy human company and the occasional hug

  • Donkeys are hardy and require less maintenance than horses

  • Donkeys are surefooted and rarely stumble or trip -having eyes on the side of their head they can see all four feet at the same time enabling them to place each foot securely

  • Donkeys walk at about the same speed as humans- normally about 4.5km/hour but a bit slower in the afternoons

  • Donkeys rarely panic and bolt - being more inclined to rely on their camouflage to hide from predators and other dangers

  • Donkeys live off the land - even in the harsh conditions of Northern Australia, donkeys do very well on native grasses without requiring supplements

  • Donkeys are comparatively stronger than horses- donkeys have straight, short backs (having one less vertebra than horses) making donkeys more suitable to carry pack saddles than horses. Donkeys can carry 22% of their body weight compared to 12% of a horse.

  • Donkeys have been used as pack animals for 5000-8000 years- it is almost instinctive for donkeys to accept carrying pack saddles

  • Donkeys are intelligent and learn quickly with little repetition

  • Donkeys can be trained to pack in less than 7 days from wild caught

  • Donkeys rarely require to be shod- their little hooves become harder and more resistant to wear when in work

  • Donkeys have evolved in dry arid environments – their physiology is adapted to reduce use of water, they can concentrate their urine, they have two arteries to each kidney to void toxins from the blood quickly, lower muscle mass reduces build up of body heat, reduction in sweating making donkeys good for endurance rather than brute force. Most donkeys drink less than 20 litres of water per day, even in very hot conditions, compared with 50 litres for a horse

  • Donkeys tend to form “strings” of animals that follow the leader which makes traversing narrow paths and tracks as a team easier

 

The opposing reasons are:

 

  • Donkeys feet evolved in arid environments and require a lot of care and maintenance in wet and boggy conditions to prevent seedy toe, greasy heel and laminitis

  • Donkeys can be stubborn if they do not trust the situation or the leader- this is overcome by ingraining a sense of trust in the packers and humans around them.

  • Donkeys are hydrophobic- they are generally reluctant to cross bodies of water including small puddles- this is overcome by gaining trust of the human leader

  • Donkeys can kick very accurately and repeatedly- their low stature places kicks in the upper thigh region of average height humans (our pack donkeys are used to humans and quite placid so rarely kick out at people)

  • Donkeys have big teeth and long strong jaws for extra leverage when eating shrubs - again our pack donkeys are very tame and placid so very rarely attempt to bite people