How to tell what a donkey is thinking

Aug 19, 2014
How to tell what a donkey is thinking
Ears back could indicate pain or discomfort. Credit: The Brooke

Yawning, sighing and stretching are just three behaviours observed in donkeys that have been evaluated in newly published research led by academics from the University of Bristol's School of Veterinary Sciences and funded by global equine welfare charity the Brooke.

The reports of working donkeys in Lahore, Pakistan and the consistency of those behaviours. It confirmed that the , which has a reputation as one of the most stoic of animals, in fact has a large behavioural repertoire.

There has long been a lack of scientific evidence relating to donkey , which is very different from that of horses or other equines. This lack of evidence can make it difficult to reliably address a donkey's needs. Researchers will use the findings of this work to investigate how to analyse the different behaviour traits, start to identify emotional state and, importantly, to identify whether the animal is in pain.

The research builds on preliminary work to document donkey behaviour and the Brooke will apply the findings to improve assessment of donkey welfare in the countries in which it works. The Brooke regularly conducts objective welfare assessments on donkeys, horses and mules in the countries in which it works, to establish what welfare issues are present, and as part of creating effective projects to address them.

Melissa Upjohn, Research Coordinator for the Brooke said; "Our team in Pakistan were so pleased to work with the University of Bristol on this project, and it provides vital information that we will incorporate into our assessments. A lot of the process involves observing a donkey before approaching it in order to see it act naturally, and so these identified behaviour patterns are exactly what we need to inform the work of our field staff in improving donkeys' welfare and advising their owners on how best to help their animals."

Explore further: A sheep's early life experiences can shape behavior in later life

More information: Regan FH, Hockenhull J, Pritchard JC, Waterman-Pearson AE, Whay HR (2014) "Behavioural Repertoire of Working Donkeys and Consistency of Behaviour over Time, as a Preliminary Step towards Identifying Pain-Related Behaviours." PLoS ONE 9(7): e101877. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0101877

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Domestication of the donkey

Mar 10, 2008

An international group of researchers has found evidence for the earliest transport use of the donkey and the early phases of donkey domestication, suggesting the process of domestication may have been slower and less linear ...

'Zonkey' baby Ippo draws crowds in Florence

Nov 01, 2013

An act of love between Martin the zebra and Giada the donkey in the romantic Italian city of Florence has produced a rare "zonkey" baby that is drawing crowds to an unusual exotic animal shelter.

Google to animal lovers: no hit-and-run on donkey

Jan 16, 2013

Google on Wednesday moved to reassure users that no animals were harmed in the making of its popular maps after a street view picture surfaced of a donkey lying on the side of a road.

Study shines light on mules, their blood chemistry

May 16, 2013

Offspring of female horses and male donkeys, mules are often associated with caution and hard work. While they'll never be mistaken for thoroughbreds, mules play important roles in modern society – performing ...

Recommended for you

Ninety-eight new beetle species discovered in Indonesia

49 minutes ago

Ninety-eight new species of the beetle genus Trigonopterus have been described from Java, Bali and other Indonesian islands. Museum scientists from Germany and their local counterparts used an innovative approa ...

A vegetarian carnivorous plant

Dec 19, 2014

Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.