Protecting livestock is easy when you have guard donkeys in place.
Like most guardian animals, it is best to raise donkeys with the herd they’ll be protecting while they are young. Although jennies (female donkeys) or gelded males can be introduced to a herd as grown animals, foals that grow up with their flock will be natural leaders and protectors.
Donkeys are territorial animals and are not necessarily protective of the herd as much as they are protective of their territory and themselves. They do not patrol the pasture but rather feed and socialize with the stock until a threat appears. With their large ears and a wide range of vision, donkeys are alert while grazing yet are less spooky and skittish than horses, making them more likely to stand their ground and confront a threat.
Donkeys are instinctively aggressive toward canines, and are capable of dishing out crushing blows with both their front and hind legs as well as using their large teeth to bite raiding intruders. However, they cannot handle multiple canine attackers or larger predators like mountain lions, wild hogs or bears, and will rarely notify the farmer of any problems in the pasture — although their loud braying may indicate potential invasions.
The record for the oldest documented age for a donkey is 54 years old in New Mexico, USA.
Although often portrayed as moody and difficult to work with, donkeys, if trained right, can be loyal and effective farm hands that are naturally inclined to not only herd but also protect sheep and goats from predators such as coyotes and roaming dogs.
So next time you see a donkey lazily grazing in the sun, remember, that’s no Eeyore moping around the pasture, it could very well be farm security, in which case you better watch out because you do not want to be on the receiving end of a donkey kick.
Credits: Modern Farmer’s Guide to Guard Donkeys
Photos by Jeff