Shelter seeking behaviour of healthy donkeys and mules in a hot climate


Emily Haddy, Faith A. Burden. 7 November 2019. Shelter seeking behaviour of healthy donkeys and mules in a hot climate. Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

Publication details
Publication date: 
7 November 2019
DOI number: 

Exposure to environmental factors such as high temperatures and solar radiation levels present a welfare concern for many domestic equids. Understanding how these factors influence the shelter use of healthy equids can inform welfare guidelines. While there is research assessing horses’ responses to hot, dry climates, the use of shelter by healthy, semi-free ranging donkeys and mules has not been assessed. We observed the shelter seeking behaviour (SSB) of 109 donkeys and 21 mules, with free access to constructed shelters, across two locations during summer in Southern Spain. The location of each equid, either utilising a constructed shelter, outside unprotected or using natural protection, was observed. This was recorded alongside measures of environmental conditions including temperature, lux, wind speed and level of insect harassment. Equids were observed using some form of protection from the elements in 39% of observations. Increasing temperatures and lux levels predicted increased shelter use whereas temperature and wind speed were key predictors of outside protection use. Compared to donkeys, shelter seeking by mules was more sensitive to changes in a number of environmental factors including lux, temperature and level of insect harassment. Results indicate that rates of protection use are quite high in these conditions and that shelters are utilised under particular environmental conditions: high temperatures, high lux levels and increased wind speeds, indicating they are likely to confer a significant welfare advantage.

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Donkeys and humans – how the use of donkeys as livestock units on agriculture schemes in Ireland potentially influences government-NGO interactions

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Monday 7 May 2018

In many parts of the developing world, donkeys are kept as working animals and used primarily for transport (of goods and people) and agricultural activities (such as ploughing). In these regions, donkeys are of particular value due to their low purchasing price, ease of management and efficiency of work output. Similarly in the past in Ireland, donkeys proved to have innumerable uses, being capable of surviving and working on terrain that was unsuitable for horses, which latter, people could not afford in any case. Today, donkeys are mainly kept either as companion animals or as Livestock Units (LUs) registered on agricultural area aid schemes to aid in the collection of farm subsidies. In 2017 the Department of Agriculture (DAFM) who administer the subsidy scheme, also made an ex gratia payment of €120,000 to The Donkey Sanctuary to support its work in rescue/rehoming, in controlling indiscriminate breeding and in providing veterinary services to privately owned donkeys in Ireland.

Information was gathered concerning the mapping of areas eligible for subsidy payments, the numbers of applicants, the place of origin of applicants and the numbers of registered donkeys (and other equidae) these applicants used as LUs for the years 2012, 2013 and 2014. The value of payments made to applicants registering equidae as LUs during these years was also gathered. The Donkey Sanctuary provided information regarding their interactions with private-donkey owners including subsidy applicants – the collection of background information, the provision of veterinary services and the rehoming of donkeys to applicants who might register them as LUs.

Subsidy year Total equine-applicant payments €uro value Horse/donkey Livestock Unit numbers Total equine Livestock Unit numbers
2010 € 4,030,377 10480
2011 € 6,214,130 18447
horses donkeys
2012 € 2,374,996 4546 2222 6768
2013 € 2,284,832 3564 2593 6157
2014 € 2,305,650 2606 2544 5150

Table 1. €uro value of ANC equine-applicant payments and the numbers of equines registered as Livestock Units (LUs) on ANC during the years 2010 to 2014

In the first 11 months of 2017, The Donkey Sanctuary provided donkey welfare improvement services to 176 owners of 700 private donkeys including circa 90 castrations, 450 farriery, 50 dental treatments, 130 identification and 60 husbandry including nutritional advice. They rehomed approximately 40 donkeys to subsidy applicants who might use them as LUs. The detail will be presented.

DAFM administer an agriculture subsidy scheme which permits the use of donkeys as Livestock Units but does not have an ostensible animal welfare function; never-the-less they make ex gratia animal welfare payments to NGOs such as The Donkey Sanctuary in support of services targeted at the owners of private donkeys. This provides an opportunity for government and NGOs to engage in such a way that public monies might be better used to support animal welfare improvements.

Owner awareness of the importance of equine dentistry and its role in preventing welfare problems


J. B. Rodrigues, Faith A. Burden, Carlos A. A. Viegas, Fidel San Roman. 5 October 2017. Owner awareness of the importance of equine dentistry and its role in preventing welfare problems. Presented at SPANA Working Animal Congress. (2 October - 5 October 2017). Marrakech, Morocco.

Presentation details
Date presented: 
Thursday 5 October 2017

Recent clinical and post-mortem studies have documented dental disease as a major but often unrecognized, disorder of equids, including horses and donkeys. A study to investigate the prevalence of oral and dental disorders was performed, in two endangered breeds of donkeys: the Mirandês Donkey and the Zamorano-Leonés Donkey, through a prospective cross-sectional study of 800 donkeys, divided in to 7 age groups (ranging 0–34 years).
Cheek teeth disorders were present in 82.8% of study donkeys, ranging from a prevalence of 29.6% in the <2.5 years old group to 100% in the >25 years old group. In addition 74% of donkeys suffered from incisor disorders, ranging from 56.8% in the youngest group to 90.3% in donkeys >25 years.
The study evaluated socio-economic data from individual owners (n=341), owning 86% of the study population (n=688 donkeys), including age, profession, level of education and previous knowledge of dentistry. Results highlighted their advanced age (65.3 years), and the extremely high percentage of owners without previous knowledge of donkey dentistry (97.1%) (331/341). Previous knowledge of dentistry was mentioned only by 2.9% of owners (10/341), mainly by owners with a higher level of education, with 80% (8/10) having 12 years of education or more. However, only two owners had provided previous treatment to their donkeys. It is important to mention that even these two owners had other animals without treatment, meaning that animals were treated when presenting with clinical signs of oral and dental disease and were not treated on a prophylactic basis.
This study highlights the importance of educational programmes focused on the prophylactic importance of donkey dentistry, especially when comparing prevalence of dental disorders in working donkeys and previous knowledge on dentistry.

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