Donkey Breed Society

donkey and carriage
Happy New Year to all donkey lovers. Please note that Membership Renewals are due on 1 February.
DBS - Donkey looking over a dry stone wall

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Why Breed At All?


To preserve and improve the genus ‘Donkey’ or  ‘Equus Asinus’


The donkey is far from being an endangered species, and many are relinquished into donkey sanctuaries on an annual basis, but without new life the donkey population would not be maintained at its current level, let alone improved.


For some breeders it is for financial gain, if only to fund the existing herd with mares put in foal in quick succession and their foals advertised for sale on an annual basis; for others it is in anticipation of breeding a show winner, with the mediocre being sold on when they fail to live up to expectations; whilst for a dedicated minority it will be with a genuine and considered desire to improve their stock and thereby the breed.


It is to be hoped that as Donkey Breed Society members we are going to respect our chosen animals and if and when we choose to breed, it will be for the right reasons, and with due consideration given to the choice of stallion or mare; recognising what we are trying to achieve in the way of improvement, and an understanding that donkeys can live for over half the human life expectation and will need to be cared for, long after many of us are gone.


We must never lose sight of the fact that to give the breeder the pleasure of babyhood and the fluffy foal in their paddock, the adult donkey will have to ‘endure’ a further thirty to forty years of life;  those years stretching way into the future must be lived rather than endured and to that end selective breeding can ensure that limb, jaw and hoof conformation is of the best.


There can be no sadder sight than a donkey struggling to make its way across a field with obscenely constricted forelegs and cow hocks, or trying to crop grass with jaws that do not meet.


The birth of a foal can come as an immense shock to some, particularly where an owner has unwittingly purchased a mare or filly without realising that they have been running out with an entire male at some stage during the preceding twelve months and are now concealing an unborn foal.


Little time to prepare for the happy event; and in some instances little knowledge of what to expect.  An even worse scenario being no time at all, when the mare gives birth without warning and the first one knows is the presence of two more ears and four more hooves in the stable or paddock.


Hopefully a little more planning can go into the birth of the majority of foals and so due consideration can be given to the choice of parents, date of foaling, and where the nuptials and happy event will take place in due course, ensuring that the birth will be a happily anticipated event with everything in place to make it as safe and secure as can be.


The information that follows is not intended to be an encyclopaedia or to replace the recognised text books that already exist. This is a layman’s guide prepared by the Stud Book Committee to help those owners wishing to breed a foal to make an informed choice.





Stud Book Rules








This contains the particulars of the following donkeys: -

Stud Book Registered Stallions

Stud Book Registered Mares

Progeny of the above

                    (Providing they are not inbred and the parents were 4 years or over at time of covering will

                      be registered as Progeny Colts and Progeny Fillies)


The Progeny of those Stallions and those Mares, will at the age of 4 years be transferred to the Adult section of the Pedigree Stud Book without further inspection but in accordance with EU Commission Decision 96/78 and their records identified as uninspected.


These same progeny may be submitted for Inspection for freedom from hereditary diseases and defects at or after the age of 4 years and if successful, their records amended so that they are  identified as Stallions or Mares of Excellence.






1. This Register contains the particulars of donkeys which are the progeny of a Stallion or Mare in the Stud Book and a Mare (of four years or over at the time of covering) or a Stallion in the General Donkey Register, or the progeny of two Stud Book registered parents who do not have three clear generations in their immediate pedigrees.


2. The progeny of a Stallion or Mare in the Stud Book , and a mare or stallion registered in the General Register, will be registered as 'first generation' in the Improving Donkey Register.

The Progeny of a donkey registered as "first generation" in the Improving Donkey Register and a donkey entered in the Stud Book will be registered as "second generation" in the Improving Donkey Register.

The Progeny from a donkey registered as "second generation" in the improving Donkey Register and a donkey entered in the Stud Book will be registered as "third generation" in the Improving Donkey Register.


3. Only the "third generation" of donkeys registered in the Improving Donkey  Register, between the ages off our and eight years will be considered for Inspection for entry in the Stud Book, save that a donkey being the progeny of an uninspected mare or stallion entered on the General Register, and a Stud Book Registered Mare or Stallion and recorded as ‘first or second generation’ which can provide a pedigree that conforms to requirements for Stud Book Registration, and which can be verified through the Published Stud Books of the Donkey Breed Society, may be put forward for inspection at the age of four years and if successful be registered in the appropriate adult Pedigree Stud Book.


4. The progeny of a donkey in the improving Donkey Register and one in the General Donkey Register will be registered in the General Donkey Register.


5. The progeny of both parents registered in the Improving Donkey Register will be registered in the General Donkey Register.


6. If a donkey in the Improving Donkey Register fails its Inspection, or is not inspected and entered in the Stud Book, it will be transferred to the General Donkey Register.





l. This Register contains the particulars of stallions, mares, colts, fillies or geldings, whether or not owned by a Member, which are not entered in the Stud Book or registered in any of its Ancillary Registers (except the Miniature Register).


2. The progeny of a Stallion and a Mare registered in the General Donkey Register can only be registered in this Register.


3. The progeny of a Stallion or a Mare (of four years or over at the time of covering) registered in the General Donkey Register and a Mare or Stallion entered in the Stud Book will be registered in the Improving Donkey Register.


4. The progeny of a donkey in the improving Donkey Register and one in the General Donkey Register will be registered in the General Donkey Register.


5. From and including the year 2004 no donkey registered in the General Donkey Register will be eligible to be inspected for the Stud Book.


6. The progeny of a Stallion or a Mare, either or both of which were less than 4 years old at the time of Covering will be registered in the General Donkey Register.





1. This Register contains the registration of donkeys registered in Stud Books maintained by recognised Societies or Associations of another country.


2. Registration in this Register will follow the production to the Stud Book Registrar of the appropriate registration documents (or.certified copies) issued by the foreign Society or Association.





1. This Register contains the registration of donkeys which are aged four Years or over and have been certified by any Veterinary Surgeon as being under 36 inches (91.5cms or 9hh)


2. Upon production to the Stud Book Registrar of the certificate of height and proof of age, the donkey will be registered in this Register, but will retain its entry in the Stud Book, Improving, General or Foreign Registers, as the case may be.





1. This Register contains details of all equines of mixed parentage, where one parent is a donkey and the other parent is a horse or pony.





l. This Register contains details of all equines other than donkeys, mules, hinnies horses or ponies. It includes other breeds and cross breeds where one parent is an "other breed" (e.g. zebra) and the other is a donkey, mule, hinny, horse or pony.




l. This Register contains details of all equines which are a horse or a pony and recorded

              (a) as one parent in the breeding of a Mule or Hinnie

              (b) is recorded for the purpose of providing an Equine Passport








(a) A donkey will only be considered for Progeny Registration and subsequent entry in the Stud Book at four years of age if the application is made to the Stud Book Registrar by the Member owning the donkey and the donkey is the progeny of a Stud Book Registered Stallion and a Stud Book Registered Mare providing:-


(i)     A Donkey Breed Society covering certificate ‘mare portion’ is attached to the application for

          Registration/ passport issue and matches the information contained on the ‘stallion portion’ which

          must have been lodged with the Stud Book Registrar after covering has taken place; or an Artificial

          Insemination Certificate. (Note: - Application for entry of a foal must be made before the age of six

          months or the end of the year of its birth whichever comes first)


(ii)    Both the Sire and the  Dam  each have three clear generations in their immediate Pedigrees without

         any of their ancestors being repeated, or where they are without verified ancestry but have been

         accepted following Inspection prior to 2006.     In the Pedigree of a donkey, one ancestor may be

         repeated twice, but then only after (and not including) the great grandparents' generation.


(iii)    The Section of the Stud Book is marked ‘Not Inspected’







(a)       A Donkey registered within the  Stud Book, may at four years of age be Inspected for Freedom

           from Hereditary Diseases and Defects by a Veterinary Surgeon appointed  by the Donkey Breed

           Society for that purpose, and if the donkey passes a further ‘Merit Entry’ be made in a list of

           ‘Inspected  Donkeys’ in the current Stud Book Volume.


(i) it is the Progeny of a Stud Book Registered Stallion and a Stud Book Registered Mare entered in the Stud Book and is aged between four and eight years




(ii) it is a donkey registered in the Improving Donkey Register which is eligible for inspection (see Part 11 para 3).


(b) No donkey will be considered for entry in the Stud Book (even if recommended by Inspection) unless both its Sire and its Dam each have three clear generations in their immediate Pedigrees without any of their ancestors being repeated. In the Pedigree of a donkey, one ancestor may be repeated twice, but then only after (and not including) the great grandparents' generation.





(a) A Member wishing to apply for his or her donkey to be inspected for entry in the Stud Book should apply to the Stud Book Registrar who will send an application form and identification document for completion and return by the Member.


(b) Upon receipt of the completed and signed application form, identification document and the Inspection Fee the Stud Book Registrar will: -

(i) notify the Member and the Veterinary Surgeon of the date, time and venue of the Inspection at which the Member (or an appointed nominee) should attend with the donkey and subsequently

(ii) notify the Member of the result of the Inspection.


(c) At the Inspection the Veterinary Surgeon will be required to examine the donkey for freedom from hereditary disease, faults and defects and complete a Certificate as to his or her findings and hand the Certificate to the Committee Representative present. In the absence of the Committee Representative the Veterinary Surgeon should send the Certificate by post in the stamped addressed envelope provided.


(d) In the event of the Veterinary Surgeon issuing a Certificate unfavourable to the donkey the Applicant may, within six weeks of being notified of the result of the Inspection and the reason for failure, apply to the Stud Book Registrar for the appointment of an Appeal Veterinary Surgeon (who may be the Applicant's own Veterinary Surgeon). If the Appeal Veterinary Surgeon's opinion differs from that of the Veterinary Surgeon a Second Appeal Veterinary Surgeon will be appointed by the Society. The decision of this Second Appeal Veterinary Surgeon will be final. The Appeal Veterinary Surgeons may only adjudicate on the reason/s for the original failure. The costs for any first arid second Appeals will be borne by the applicant, however in the event that the donkey is eventually accepted for inclusion in the Stud Book, the Society vill reimburse the costs for the second Appeal.


(e) Results of all Inspections and Appeals are the property of the Society and may be made available to Members at the discretion of the Committee.





Centre Inspections will be held at a venue which is approved by the Committee. A Private Inspection may be held at a venue of the Member's choice.





(a) An application for the registration of a donkey in the Stud Book or the improving Donkey Register can only be made by the Member owning that donkey.

(b) An application for the registration of any equine in any Ancillary Register (apart from the Improving Donkey Register) may be made by the person owning the equine. The equine will be placed in the appropriate Ancillary Register as determined by its breed.

(c) Application forms for registration in an Ancillary Register must be obtained from the Stud Book Registrar, completed in all respects, signed and returned with the appropriate fees.

(d) Application forms for registration in the Improving Donkey Register must be accompanied by either a Covering Certificate issued by the Society, or an Artificial Insemination Certificate.





The Fees and Expenses for Registrations, Inspections and Transfers within the Stud Book and the Ancillary Registers are advertised regularly in the Society's publications. Inspection Fees and Expenses will vary according to whether they are being held at a Centre or upon private property. All Fees and Expenses must be paid in advance, except that the Fee for the registration of a donkey bred beyond the British Isles will be assessed by the Committee at the time of application and must be paid before the application is processed.





(a) A Member can reserve, with the consent of Council and registration with the Central Prefix Register, the exclusive right to use a name as a Prefix or as a Suffix. on payment of the appropriate fee.


(b) No change in the name of a Registered Equine will be recognised by the Society, thus no Prefix or Suffix can be added to the name of an Equine once it has been entered in the Stud Book or any of its Ancillary Registers.


(c) No Prefix or Suffix may be used until it is registered with the Central Prefix Register through the Stud Book Registrar.


(d) No equine will be accepted for entry in the Stud Book or its Ancillary Registers with a name: -

(i) which includes a Prefix and a Suffix

(ii) longer than twenty five letters (including Prefix or Suffix and spaces)

(iii) which is the same as (or so similar as could cause confusion with) a name already entered in the Stud Book or its Ancillary Register. (iv) which includes initials, numerals, apostrophes or hyphens, etc.

(v) which in the opinion of the Committee or the Central Prefix Register is likely to prove misleading, undesirable or offensive in English or other language.


(e)        A Prefix or a Suffix must consist of one word only of either: -


             (i) a geographical name or locality, or

            (ii) a distinctive name of one word


(f) A Prefix or Suffix may only be registered in the name of an individual but may be used by a family member or partner provided that written consent is give to the Stud Book Registrar.


(g) A Prefix or Suffix once registered cannot be used again within seventy-five years by another person or transferred without the previous consent of its registered owner.


(h) A registered Prefix or Suffix may be bequeathed by the Will of its owner, or by Deed of Gift, to another person and it will be transferred by the Stud Book Registrar upon being provided with suitable proof of the Gift.


(i) A Prefix may only be used for equines bred by the owner of that Prefix. The Breeder of an equine is the registered owner, or lessee, of the Mare at the time of foaling.


(j) A Suffix may only be used by the owner of the Suffix on a previously unregistered equine of unknown breeding. Where the breeding is known the breeder's prefix must be used.





The Stud Book Registrar/ Passport Adminstrator  must be notified by the owner of a donkey as soon as practicable of any of the following: -


(a) Any change of ownership by the completion of a Certificate of Transfer.  Where an equine is owned by two or more people they must all sign the Certificate.


(b) The Lease of an equine by giving the name and address of the lessee and stating the period of the Lease. The lessee will be responsible for the completion of any necessary documentation in relation to the registration of any progeny.


(c) The freeze-branding or microchipping or other permanent marking of all equine for identification purposes


(d)        The death of an equine by giving date of death, and, if possible, its cause.


(e) The castration of an equine by providing a certificate or letter of confirmation of the date of the castration.





No discrimination will be made against equines produced by artificial reproductive methods.






"The Society" means the Donkey Breed Society

"Stud Book Registered Stallions" and "Stud Book Registered Mares" mean donkey Stallions and Mares

(a) which are respectively entered in Section A and Section B of the British Stud Book as at

  31st  December 2006 or

(b) the ones which are entered in the British Stud Book following successful Inspection.


"Stallion" means an entire male equine aged four years or over "Mare" means a female equine aged four years or over.


"Colt" means an entire male equine under the age of four years. "Filly" means a female equine under the age of four years. "Member" means a fully paid up Member of the Society.


"Stud Book Registrar" means the Honorary Stud Book Registrar appointed by the Council


“Passport Administrator”


"The Committee" means the Stud Book Committee of the Society


"Veterinary Surgeon" and "Appeal Veterinary Surgeon" mean persons who are Members of the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and selected by the Committee and the Council to examine donkeys at Inspections and Appeals. "The Council" means the Council of the Society.


THE COUNCIL reserves the right to refuse any application for entry in the British Stud Book or its Ancillary Registers AND the right to amend the Rules and Regulations as and when it considers necessary.


lssued by the Donkey Breed Society: 10.09.1997

Operative from: 01.01. 1998

Amended and reprinted 28.10.2004




Stud Book and Breeding


Stud Book Registration

The Donkey Breed Society holds Mother Stud Book Status for donkeys in the United Kingdom, granted in 1994 in accordance with EC Directive 90/427, and has published a printed Stud Book Annually since 1975.


The Stud Book is divided into seven registers, which accommodates the upgrading of the progeny from donkeys with unknown ancestry, to that of pedigree status, via three Improving Registers, providing the rule criteria for improvement is maintained.


Stud Book Rules


Responsible Breeding

Concerns are still being raised about the numbers of donkeys being bred indiscriminately for sale and profit rather than for any wish on the part of the breeder to retain them. With the number of people wishing to purchase donkeys declining, there is an ever growing welfare issue, exacerbated further by larger numbers of donkeys entering the United Kingdom from other EU countries.


Whilst it is the remit of the Stud Book committee to improve the breed by responsible and informed breeding it is also important to recognise when it is not in the best interest of the donkey to breed at all, and the committee is mindful that we are still in one of those times.


Prefix Registration

If you wish to give you donkey a personal identify as well as a name you could register a unique prefix which can be added in front of the name of any donkey you breed yourself.


To do this you need to apply for your choice of name to be registered through the Central Prefix Register, using the (Prefix Application Form) link,  which should be completed as directed and returned to the Donkey Breed Society Registrar with the appropriate fee.


The cost of registration is £35 for a new prefix or £20 to extend a prefix you have registered for other purposes, and cheques should be made payable to the Donkey Breed Society.


Breeding performance Awards

Summerhays Brood Mare Scheme awards are made annually.  The scheme is designed to reward our top pedigree (‘B’ registered in the Stud Book) brood mares, by calculating the in hand showing points that their offspring (from an ’A’ Stud Book stallion) have won for them. In this way, the offspring ‘win’ for their dam. The breeding spotlight often largely falls on the Stallion, however he is only part of the story; this award re-dresses the balance and shows the influence the mare has on the progeny


Improving Register Awards are calculated from the show ring placings of donkeys which are themselves registered on the three Improving Registers



The Donkey Breed Society is an approved Passport Issuing Organisation and for that purpose the issuing of a passport document and registration are interlinked; each donkey will be assigned a registration number in the correct register for its status or type, which will appear on the passport document.




Choosing A Stallion

Selecting the right stallion!

Having chosen your mare, whether it be from several, or the ‘no choice’ option of just the one, you now need to consider carefully the best stallion for her. This is a decision that will have a huge impact on your foal, so plan ahead, maybe a year or even more ahead, and plan with thought to the following:


• What future role in life am I mapping out for my foal?

• What do I known about her breeding and how does this impact on my choices?

• What conformation defects in my mare am I trying to correct?

• Why are Stud Book Pedigree Register Stallions Important?

• How far am I willing to travel to meet the stallion of my dreams?


What is the future for my foal?

If you have no forward plan with desires to take up carriage driving, ploughing, tree hauling or win the Supreme Championship you may feel that choice of stallion is irrelevant, and that may indeed be so, but an old adage still remains true today. ‘It costs the same to keep a poor specimen as a good one’, and if the poor specimen is going to require veterinary attention on a frequent basis, then it could be considerably more.     Whatever role your donkey may have in the future it deserves to be blessed with good conformation.

What do I know about my mare’s breeding  and why does it matter?


Until 33 years ago little attention was paid to recording parentage of the donkey, it didn’t have the high profile of the horse and was relatively cheap to replace.  These days the Donkey Breed Society holds comprehensive stud book records going back to 1974, and may be able to help trace those for your mare so that you can consciously avoid  breeding her to a stallion that is in any way related.  It is however more likely that your mare is of an entirely unknown origin and has to be seen to starting with a clean slate; it would still be advisable to see how much you can find out about her previous geographical location and avoid using a stallion in the same village as there could be a good chance that they are indeed related.


Breeding out conformation defects

Having identified any conformation problems in your mare it is imperative that you do not then mirror them in your choice of stallion, so its time to get up front and personal with some stud advertisements, photographs in society magazines and even the real thing, from the side of the ring at a show.  Decide which stallion stirs you emotionally whether it is from the printed page or in the flesh, and ask yourself why?  Does his picture show you a donkey standing well and looking settled;  in the flesh does he stride out with confidence? and is he calm and settled in the company of others?  Whilst showing may not be your thing, the success and results from those who do are a fairly good guide as to the quality of their stock.


Now is the time to do some home visiting, ask to meet the stallion you are attracted to.  Be objective in your inspection, ask to see him walking and trotting towards and away from you as well as standing still, have your mare’s cow hocks and narrow chest or turned in hooves fixed in your mind and make sure the stallion doesn’t exhibit the same traits as he walks towards and away from you.  If your mare appears to be a little light of bone with cannon bones like straws rather than tree trunks, seek a stallion with substantial leg development and your foal will at least stand a good chance of inheriting some of it.   If you find yourself presented with a raving demon,  be aware that such behaviour is not something you may wish to confront in your foal, the happy go lucky stallion comfortable with himself and his life, will be a better choice.


The stallion may only be 50% of the equation, but at this moment in time it is the most important 50% as making the right choice at this stage could enhance your mare’s ability to present you with an exceptional foal.


If your mare is under 36inches and bred from miniature stock careful selection of a suitable miniature stallion is even more critical as you need to avoid any stallion with the large head and short legs that might indicate dwarfism. It is imperative that your choice of stallion reflects your mare’s miniature status and that you do not send her to anything but a verified miniature stallion.  To allow her to be covered by a larger stallion puts not only the life of your foal at risk but in the worst case scenario the mare as well, and the progeny will in no way be classified as a miniature donkey, regardless of height, but as part-bred standard donkey.


Why are Stud Book Pedigree Register Stallions important?

The simple fact is that they have recorded breeding, you will be able to trace their ancestry, and go out and look at progeny listed to see how they have grown and developed, and with the stallions in the pedigree register working today you can be confident that through the process of veterinary inspection prior to registration, any with hereditary defects and diseases have been identified and excluded.


Why are Improving Register Stallions Important?

They can be the means of acquiring bloodlines that might not otherwise be available and if your mare is in the Pedigree Register and you select a stallion from the 2nd  Generation Improving register the progeny from the mating will be eligible for inspection for the pedigree stud book.


How far must I travel for the stallion of my mare’s dreams?

As far as is necessary and as far as your finances will allow!


The stallion down the road about which you know nothing will always be a cheaper and more convenient option than one with breeding and status three counties away, but do think carefully; if this is worth doing at all then surely it is worth doing properly

Your foal has a life expectancy of 35 – 40 years and you have a moral obligation to choose a stallion of the best quality you can

No-one that I have had contact with has made a living from breeding donkeys, but the pleasure of watching a good foal grow, knowing that you made the right choices is reward indeed.


The Stud Book Registrar can supply you with a comprehensive list of active stallions and their pedigrees.

Contact:   Mrs P. Moon    47, Laburnum Avenue, Lostock Hall, Preston.  PR5 5BA



Castration and Re-Homing



Before you decide to put your mare in foal, be aware that there is a 50/50 chance of the foal being male.

Donkey foals are very aware of their sexuality from a young age, and it has been known for a foal of five months old to get his own mother back in foal. A young colt foal will exhibit ‘coltish’ tendencies early on and although it is fun to play chase, and let them jump up around you when they are small, these games can quickly turn nasty in a foal that starts to throw his weight around a few months later.


So along with the other things you are considering when deciding to breed from your mare add in the costs involved in castrating your foal. The average cost of having a castration performed in 2009 is £200, and depending on your location could be substantially more with one person quoting £460, although that  did include the mare and foal staying at the veterinary hospital for three days.


Speak to your own vet and ask the question, and prepare to castrate before sale; it is wholly irresponsible to sell a colt, foal or otherwise into an unsuspecting home where the new owners may not recognise the implications of having purchased an entire. You may think you have bred the best colt in the world and it would be sad to see him castrated, but he will live a much happier and fulfilled life as a gelding and be able to enjoy the company of friends. Most stallions live a solitary and frustrating life and it is only the very best who should be kept entire to secure the future of the breed.


A donkey can be castrated as young as two days old, but most vets are reluctant to perform the operation at such a young age. The optimum age to have the operation done is at about five to six months old, so the foal still has the comfort of his mum, and of course weaning is not such high priority if the chance of him covering her has been taken away. There are those who think a colt matures better the longer the operation is put off, he will have a sturdier crest and more ‘showy tendencies’, but of course he will have to be weaned at six months, and be kept in more secure surroundings. If your intention is to castrate do so as early as possible, much less traumatic for your baby and much less responsibility for you.


There is of course the need for some studs to find outcross colts to bring into their breeding programme, however most stud owners will have their eye on a certain line before the resulting foal is often born, and will have expressed a desire to purchase.




You may have bred your donkey with all good intentions that you will be giving him a home for life’ or you may have bred knowing full well that your foal will be for sale as soon as he/she is old enough to leave their mother.

A donkey can have a lifespan up to 40 years, so most will change homes once or more during their lifespan, and it is inevitable that the time will come when you can no longer keep your donkey and are faced with the decision to re-home them. Nobody can guarantee that the home you sell your donkey to will be suitable, but it is your responsibility to do everything you can to place them in the right home.


It is essential you know your donkey is going to a home where he will have company.  Ideally this would be another donkey of similar age, as they will play and grow up at the same time.   If your donkey is boisterous he may benefit from living with a slightly more mature animal, to give him some manners.   A donkey will of course make a suitable companion for a horse or pony, but try to avoid goats and sheep as it has been known for a donkey to chase and even kill them.


Companionship is one of the most important issues of re-homing; donkeys are herd animals and need a companion of their own kind and will form strong and life-long bonds with another.  A lonely donkey is a very unhappy and noisy donkey.


The new owners must have enough land, at least ½ an acre per donkey, which needs to be established grassland with secure boundary fences.   Hedges whilst they form very acceptable windbreaks will need protection from invading teeth, as donkeys are browsers rather than grazers and will make short work of a tasty morsel of hawthorn.   There must be a shelter to keep them warm and dry in winter and somewhere for them to escape the flies in summer. There must be somewhere to store feed, and if running water is not available, the new owners must be aware of the fact that water will need to be carried all year round and that it is very hard work .

If the prospective purchasers have not owned  a donkey previously,  it is essential that they are encouraged to research the highs and lows of donkey ownership before they embark on a purchase, and not be afraid to step back from the purchase if they have any doubts.  The essentials of worming, farriery visits, poisonous plants and general donkey handling, are readily discussed on internet sites and in donkey publications.   Many people dream of owning a donkey, but reality hits when they realise that it involves a lot of hard work and is not just a case of putting a donkey into the overgrown area at the back of the garden.   The Donkey Sanctuary run management courses at venues around the country which provide a free and informative ‘hands on’ introduction to donkey ownership, but be warned they are popular and are often over subscribed.


It is always advisable to check if the new owners have children or grandchildren.    A young donkey is not a play thing and cannot be ridden until 4 years of age.  Although they may fall in love with a fluffy foal, by the time the donkey is old enough to ride, the children will have outgrown him in more ways than one.


A Crystal Ball to the future

Ideally you should work out a mutual agreement whereby the new owners agree to inform you if the donkey becomes surplus to requirements and to allow you an option to buy him/her back;  or at least be able to  offer assistance in finding a suitable new home if the buy back option is impractical.

If you have any doubt about the facilities in a new home or the dedication of a prospective owner, don’t do it;   there are other homes and purchasers out there who will meet all the criteria – if something goes wrong it will haunt you forever!!!!!


Informative Website:



Keeping Your Donkey Healthy (Janet Eley)  £9-95



The Birth

The Birth of a Foal

The mare will be preparing to give birth for some time before it becomes apparent to you, she will experience mild contractions that cause her to arch her back to relieve the discomfort, and will leave her group preferring to be alone.  Once labour begins in earnest things do move fairly rapidly, and possibly the first visible sign will be a balloon of membrane filled with fluid, the size of a tennis ball, which you will be seen protruding from the vulva.


1. The first signs of the onset of foaling.  The mare will move away from other herd members, will seem restless and may get up and down several times, appearing to land heavily on one side or the other, even rolling violently in an attempt to adjust the position of the unborn foal.


2. The mare is visibly uncomfortable and starts to strain with the onset of each contraction.


3. The correct presentation of the fore-feet just visible through the un-ruptured membrane still filled with amniotic fluid.   The nose is shown here clearly visible between the forelegs, presented in the ‘diving’ position.


4. The head is almost delivered, one foreleg clearly in advance of the other so that the shoulders are presented as narrow as possible to pass through the pelvic girdle.


5. With only the hind legs left to be released, the bag has now ruptured so that the foal can move freely and breath air; the umbilical cord is still firmly attached and pulsating.


6. Mare and foal taking a breather before the final stage.

The duration of this stage is usually about  20 minutes, although if you are present it will seem a lot longer.


7. The foal starts to move away from the mare and releases itself from the membranes.


8. Although the foal is now an independent person and is managing to move further way from the mare; the cord has not yet ruptured, it is this progressive movement and even the act of the mare standing up, that will cause the cord to break at a pre-determined weak point.


9. The cord has now broken and the foal starts to make first attempts to get to its feet.


10.  The protective fleshy pads that cover each hoof prior to birth; these will slowly dry and come away over the next hour or so.


11. Licking is an automatic reflex stimulated in the mare by the birth process and it is this that will help to warm and dry her foal and cement the maternal bond.


12. The foal makes a first attempt at standing by raising up onto the knees.


13.  If you don’t succeed try the legs at the other end.


14. Finally success with all four legs in unison, almost!


The duration of this stage is again about 20 minutes, a healthy foal does not stay still for very long and whilst early attempts to stand will be followed by dramatic collapses, balance gets better as every moment passes until standing still evolves into a skip and a jump, and some involuntary gambolling.


15. The final element and a search for food.  This is possibly the most frustrating time for all concerned, and the most vital as it is the fist milk or colostrums that lay down immunity from infection and disease.          Nature has programmed the foal to seek for nourishment in the shadows, which occur under the chest and behind the elbow as well as under the ventral abdomen.  Nature will come right and often human intervention causes more problems than it resolves, with a foal setting its neck and mouth against any attempt to guide it on to a teat.   Once the udder is found the mare will relax and try to guide her foal into place by lifting her hind leg and pivoting into the most appropriate position.


So your foal has arrived safely and can breathe a sigh of relief.  The mare should cleanse the afterbirth within 2 – 3 hours and you should carefully lay it out on the ground to check that it is complete, with no portion being retained that might set up an infection; at this stage it would be wise to call your veterinary surgeon to give the mare and foal a quick once over, and for the navel to be sprayed with an antiseptic.


Try and keep the visiting hoards to a trickle for a few days as both mother and baby need some calm and time to adjust to life, and the risk of infection bought in by other equine owners is a very real one.



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