Assessment of donkey temperament and the influence of the home environment

The temperament of individual donkeys being sent to foster homes from The Donkey Sanctuary was evaluated with a calibrated-line rating method using eight pairs of contrary adjectives to describe traits, e.g. calm-nervous. The donkeys' attitude to other animals and people was also recorded. A factor analysis of normalized scores for the trait adjective pairs produced two factors: 'obduracy' and 'vivacity'. Once in their foster homes, the donkeys appeared more overtly outgoing. One explanation of this change in temperament is that pairs of donkeys in foster homes experience less social intimidation than those living in groups. The donkeys' attitude towards other donkeys and people was unaffected by their change in surroundings, but their behaviour towards other animals could change. Temperament assessment can assist in matching potential pets with homes, e.g. donkeys that were perceived as liking humans had a higher 'vivacity' score and donkeys that were reported to like dogs, had a lower 'obduracy' score.

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