Questions and Answers Page
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.
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.)
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?
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.
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?
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.
Donkeys and horses are different species of the horse family
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!
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?
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
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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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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 .
Donkeys' years. You never see a dead donkey. (common
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!
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
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?)
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.
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
~Sue and Bart and the Donkeys~
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Copyright © 2003 Clovelly Donkeys. All rights reserved.
Revised: February 18, 2008 .