Questions and Answers Page

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Questions about :-

  1. About Donkeys in Clovelly
  2. General Questions about Donkeys, Mules and other Equines 
  3. Donkey Work
  4. Donkey Keeping
  5. Allsorts, Jokes and Sayings
  6. Send us Your Question or Answer

List of Questions about  Donkeys in Clovelly

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List of General Questions about Donkeys, Mules and other Equines

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List of Questions about Donkey Work

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List of Questions about Donkey Keeping

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List of Allsorts, Jokes and Sayings

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Clovelly Questions

Qu.1.1   Do the donkeys still work on the Cobbles?

Yes. Weather permitting, there are usually some donkeys on the cobbles for visitors to pat and photograph and one that young children may sit upon. The donkeys still occasionally carry luggage from the New Inn to the top of the cobbles.

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Qu.1.2   Do the donkeys pull the sledges?

No. Donkeys only carry goods UP the cobbles. The sledges are for people to pull their goods down the cobbles. However, most of the donkeys can be driven to the donkey cart so they probably would if asked ! (but not on the cobbles.)

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Qu.1.3   Smokey the Pony?

Grace asks:
     I have just come back from holiday in Clovelly and couldn't wait to look at your website. I noticed a pony called Smokey on this site but we didn't see him when we were there, is he still alive?
We reply:
    Very sadly, our dear old Smokey died in March this year, aged at least 36. He was a friendly and well-mannered old chap and we do miss him. We didn't feel like removing his web page just yet but when we have done the 'Absent Friends' page we will move his page to there. Thanks for your question, Grace.

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Qu.1.4   Are there any more Donkeys?

Emily asks:
     I visited Clovelly in July 2003, I'm sure I saw some other donkeys which are not on the website. Are there some donkeys yet to be pictured?
We reply:
    Yes, we have just bought two new Donkeys: Jake who is 10, dapple grey and a very cool character and Jasper who is white with brown spots and very tall even though he is only 4. He won't be giving rides until next year as he is too young. We will make webpages for them as soon as we have time - this is a busy time for us! Thanks for your question, Emily.

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Questions about Donkeys, Mules and Other Equines

Qu.2.1   What is the difference between donkeys, mules and horses?

    Donkeys and horses are different species of the horse family which has many members, including zebra, onagers, khulans and Prezwalski's Horses. See the Links page for more information.
    Most members of the horse family can interbreed. If you cross a horse mare (female) with a donkey stallion (male) you get a mule. If the donkey is the mother you get a hinny.
    Donkeys are dry-climate animals who have soft, fluffy coats to keep out heat and cold and small, hard feet to cope with rocky ground. They have long ears and a short mane and tail. 
    Horses are wet-climate animals. They have short, greasy coats to keep out the rain and thick, long mane and tail to guide the water away. They have wider feet to help them run over softer ground. They live in bigger herds than donkeys and are more alert and nervous because of the greater number of predators that live in wetter lands.
    Mules are half way between horses and donkeys. They grow to the size of their horse mother but have hard donkey feet and work better than horses in hot climates. Their ears and coat are half way between horse and donkey. They have donkey manes but horse tails. They have the donkey's intelligence but the horse's more lively nature. Ours have donkey markings on top of horse colours but their shoulder stripe is upside down! 

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Qu.2.2   Why do donkeys have long ears?

 No-one really knows. One theory is that they help cool the donkey in hot deserts but just as many wild donkeys live in cold deserts where this would be a disadvantage. Perhaps it is to hear over longer distances because donkeys live further apart in a desert than horses do on the grassland. WE think its just to make them look SO gorgeous! Has anyone any other ideas? 

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Qu.2.3   What is the story of the donkey's Cross?

     Light brown and grey donkeys often have a brown stripe along their back and another across their shoulders, forming a cross. There are two versions, which we hear an equal number of times, of the folk-story of how this came about : - It is said that they were given this mark following the stories in the Holy Bible that

They are both sweet stories but this does NOT mean it is alright for adults to ride donkeys. After all, as some Nuns once pointed out, He was surely buoyed up by angels!
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Qu.2.4   What animal eats donkeys?  What are donkeys' predators ?

Question from J.T.   We reply :
    These days the creature that eats more donkeys than any other is HUMANS. Meat from domestic donkeys is an ingredient of Salami ( a spicy meat sausage) and the Italian Mortadella means 'dead donkey'.
    In Britain, donkey and horse meat is put into pet food. Fortunately British people mostly won't eat any kind of horse-meat and have fought hard to keep a 'minimum value' rule for horses and donkeys to be exported to Europe so that our British horses, wild ponies and donkeys cannot be exported to Europe for meat. Unfortunately lorries are no longer inspected at our ports so some people may still be getting away with it. The Donkey Sanctuary are keeping an eye on this.
    In the wild too humans are the most dangerous enemy of donkeys. Donkeys are hunted for food along with all other wild animals. In Somalia and Ethiopia the donkeys are also living in a war zone and soldiers shoot them for food. There are so few left that a zoo in Israel has started a breeding program to try to save them from extinction. Several other zoos, including Marwell Zoo in England, are helping in this project.
    Wild donkeys live in semi-desert areas where there are not many animals and so not many natural predators. That may be why donkeys are calm and friendly creatures. The kinds of wild animals that would attack them are big cats such as, in Africa,  lions and leopards, in Mongolia, snow leopards and in India, tigers and members of the dog family such as wolves.
    See the Links page for more links on this subject.

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Qu.2.5   Are there other words for 'donkey' ?

Question from Natster.   We reply :Yes, lots!
In Britain we say donkey or ass.
Donkey is from the middle-English word 'dunkie' which described the brown colour of donkeys (according to my dictionary). (Also, today 'dun' is used for a light brown colour of horses).
Ass is from the latin name for donkeys, equus assinus .
The only other country that uses 'donkey' is Brazil, probably because many Welsh people emigrated to New          Caledonia, which is in Brazil.

Here are some more words in our collection: (corrections and additions always welcome!)

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Qu.2.7   What adaptions do donkeys have to survive?

Question from J.T.      We reply :   
        Donkeys are creatures of the world's hot and cold semi-deserts. Starting at the top:
    Long ears. Please see Qu.2.2.
    Thick, soft , fluffy coat designed to keep out both the heat and the cold. Like horses, donkeys moult (loose) their thick winter coats in the Spring and grow a thinner one for summer though they take much longer to moult than horses. Then they grow a new winter coat and by the end of September they are back to looking cuddly and fluffy again.  Unlike horses their coats are not greasy because they do not need to keep out the rain. Also they do not have the whorls by the back legs or long manes and tails that act as natural guttering for horses by guiding water away before it soaks into the coat.
    Small, hard, more upright hooves that allow them to travel long distances on hard and rocky ground. Horses have wider feet for travelling on soft grassland without sinking into it.
    Small size and quiet, un-excitable temperament that gives them the ability to live off desert scrub which is much more rough and woody and has much less food-value than the soft grass which is horses' natural food. (That is why they can get very fat in Britain where the grass is very good. They do best when fed a proportion of straw with their hay and do not need corn feed unless they are doing a lot of work.) Their quiet temperament ensures they do not use up too much of the valuable energy they have managed to get from their poor food. 
    An instinct to chase off dogs and to stamp on snakes and to be fussy about drinking only clean water.

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Qu.2.8   Are donkeys facing threats such as loss of habitat and extinction?

Question from Bart McDonald      We reply : 

Yes. Many wild donkey populations are under threat and the Somali Wild Ass is close to extinction. See the Links page for more links on this subject and  Marwell Zoo for the project to save the Somali Wild Ass. Also Qu.4.4 about where donkeys live in the Wild. 

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Donkey Work Questions

Qu.3.1  What do the Clovelly Donkeys do today?

Summer :
    Mostly they give rides to children around the Donkey Meadow or from the stables. There is a donkey on the cobbled street for the smallest children to sit upon and others to pat and photograph.
    Sometimes after work we go for long rides along the Hobby Drive or to Mouth Mill.
    On Palm Sunday Isaac goes into the Big Church to be blessed for all the donkeys and then we have a procession to the chapel in the village.
    Occasionally the donkeys are asked to carry luggage from the New Inn to the top of the cobbles and sometimes we have to do photo sessions for publicity. Last year we were asked to go to Woolsery Street Fair, which was a great day out.
    The donkeys get very bored in winter as they spend a lot of time in the stable yard because the fields are too muddy for them to go out so they are pleased when the local children come to ride them at weekends.
    When there are a lot of beginner riders we go along the Hobby Drive but when they are all good riders we go for a fast ride through the woods to Mouth Mill. The big children ride the mules.
    Sometimes we put the donkeys or the smaller mule, Giffy, to the cart and drive them.

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Qu.3.2   Can adults ride on donkeys?

No. It's true that adults ride them in other countries but their donkeys die young as a result. A donkey is not as strong as a horse of the same size - they just put up with mistreatment better than horses.

The official weight limits set out in Britain (by The Donkey Sanctuary) are:

    This INCLUDES the weight of the saddle etc., which is around 2stone so very few adults are under the weight limit.  The weight must be reduced if the donkey is working on steep slopes.

    There are larger donkeys in various places around the world and in America very large donkeys are bred which are able to carry an adult. They are called Mammoth donkeys and must be over 14hh (56" at the shoulder). See the Links page for more information.
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Qu.3.2   How old must a Mammoth donkey be to be ridden by children?

Question from a visitor. How old does a mammoth donkey have to be before small kids around 60 pounds can start riding it?  

We reply :    Donkeys (and horses) are not fully grown until they are 5 years old. Until then their joints are not properly formed (the cartilages and bones have not fully united) and so are easily damaged. Therefore they should not carry a weight on their back regularly until they are five. That means it won't hurt to put small things on them once in a while and certainly does'nt  mean you should not train your donkey until then! It is important to get young donkeys used to being handled (including their feet), brushed, tacked up with bridle and saddle or harness, lead around, used to traffic and generally to give them a good impression of humans before anyone sits on their back.

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Qu.3.4   Where do you get your donkey-sized saddlery?

We reply :    Sue is a qualified harness-maker and makes most of the donkeys' equipment including bridles, saddles, saddle blankets, driving harness and rugs. You can search the web for suppliers too. A list of bridles can be found here.

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Questions about Keeping Donkeys

Qu.4.1   What do donkeys eat?

    Donkeys are vegetarians and are grazing animals. Their natural food is grass but being semi-desert animals they do best on tough, low-calorie food such as straw (which is the stalks of grain crops such as Oats and Barley, once the oat and barley seeds have been removed for us to eat). 
    In Britain donkeys often get far too fat from eating our rich grass which can lead to laminitis (a serious foot problem) so their grazing has to be controlled in summer time. We feed them on hay (which is dried grass) in the winter when the grass is not growing.
    They will eat tree leaves and bark (naughty things!), gorse bushes (ouch!), many wild flowers (but no bulbs such as bluebells ) and brambles. They also love carrots, apples, oranges and sugar-beet pulp but won't eat tomatoes, onions, cabbage, lettuce, cucumber or bananas.
    They adore bread, peppermints and ginger biscuits but these must be strictly rationed as they are VERY fattening and rot their teeth.

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Qu.4.2   How often do they have to have their feet trimmed?

The same as a horse - about every eight weeks. The feet of different donkeys grow at different rates. Our old donkey shamrock really needed to be done every month whereas the big mule Remus will go several months without trimming if he is being ridden regularly as he does not have shoes. 

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Qu.4.3   How much does a donkey cost?

To buy, not too much compared to horses but you should always buy two as donkeys make friends for life and are lonely by themselves.  The expensive bit is looking after them, perhaps for as long as 40 years. Anyone thinking of getting a donkey should investigate this first and try to get on a donkey-keeping course such as those given by the Donkey Sanctuary.

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Qu.4.4   Where do donkeys live?

Question from Michael.   We reply :
    Wild donkeys live in dry, semi-desert regions all over the world. They can be found in North Africa, north and south of the Sahara desert, in Somalia and Ethiopia, in Iran and Iraq, in China and in India, both in the Thar desert in the Rhan of Kutch and in the cold, high deserts of Lhadak, north of the Himalayas. Humans have brought domestic donkeys to Australia and New Zealand and to the Americas where they have escaped into the wild.
See the Links page for more links on this subject. 

   Domestic donkeys, that is, donkeys that are kept by humans, are found with humans all over the world. In many countries they have to work hard to help their owners to make a living and so are often kept in a stable next door to the owner's house. In hot countries the stable gives them shade from the sun and helps to protect them from wild animals.
    In Britain donkeys are usually pets and live in a field when it is good weather or a stable when it is raining as they do not like the rain .

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Qu.4.5   What are baby donkeys called?

Question from Katie.   We reply :
Baby donkeys are called donkey foals. Boy foals are called colt foals and girl foals are called fillies.
One-year-old donkeys are called yearlings.
Adult lady donkeys are called mares (or, in America, Jennies) and boy donkeys are called stallions (or, in America, Jacks). 
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Allsorts, Jokes and Sayings

Concerning Donkeys

Donkeys'  years. You never see a dead donkey.  (common folklore)
    Donkeys can be remarkably long-lived if given good treatment. They often live into their 30s and some much longer so that several generations of a human family may grow up knowing the same donkey. No doubt this is where these saying comes from!

Donkey work.
    Donkeys are capable of a great deal of work and will do far more than they should without rebelling, as a horse might. They have been domesticated far longer than horses and  are easy to handle and so throughout human history they have been convenient to use for any long, labourious task. We like to think that calling such jobs 'donkey work' is a  recognition of all the help donkeys have given to humans over the centuries. 

The Poor Man's Horse.
    This is usually taken to imply that donkeys are inferior to horses. Considering the number of poor people in the world compared to rich ones and that donkeys were domesticated long before horses we think this should tell you exactly the opposite! 

Donkey engine  - a small stationary engine

Nodding Donkey 
    A pump used to pump oil from oil wells. It has a beam with a guide for the oil rods on one end which looks like the head of a donkey. As the beam goes up and down the donkey looks as if he is nodding.

You can command a horse but with a donkey you must negotiate.  (does anyone know who said this?)

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Concerning Mules 

He who would have a perfect mule will have to walk.  (Spanish saying)

In the mule we find two legs behind,
Another pair before.
We stand behind before we find
What those behind be for!                  (does anyone know who wrote this?)

Traditionally churchmen always ride mules rather than horses.
    This may be because of the Bible stories connecting Jesus with donkeys but because donkeys are too small to be useful for riding. Does anyone know any more about this?

You should treat a horse the way you must treat a mule. (Pat Parelli, Natural Horsemanship trainer).
     Mules are extremely intelligent and won't tolerate the kind of abuse some people use on horses due to their lack of understanding of the horse's point of view. We think that donkey people get on well with mules because donkeys teach you to be patient and understanding.

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Ask a new Question or Reply to a Question

Do you have something to ask about donkeys? 
    If so, please send us a question and we will do our best to answer it.

Do you have an opinion about anything written here? 

Can you help to answer a question? 

If so, please email us  here

Many thanks

~Sue and Bart and the Donkeys~

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Copyright © 2003  Clovelly Donkeys. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 18, 2008 .