National Department of Agriculture
National Council of SPCAs

 

 

 

Care and use of working donkeys

Compiled by Morgane James

 

 

1999

Compiled by Directorate Communication, National Department of Agriculture
in cooperation with National Council of SPCAs
Printed and published by National Department of Agriculture
and obtainable from Resource Centre, Directorate Communication,
Private Bag X144, Pretoria 0001, South Africa

ISBN 1-86871-061-0

 


 

 

 

 

CONTENTS

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction

General safety and care

Feed and water

Resting periods

Grooming and care

Hooves  

Tethering 

Hobbles 

Pregnant donkeys  

Donkeys and young foals  

Donkeys "in season"  

Harnessing

Carts

Working pairs or teams

Packs

Harnessing for ploughing or field work

Acknowledgements


 

 


Introduction

The lives of countless numbers of people, especially in rural or disadvantaged areas, are improved and enriched through the use of donkeys. Because of their size and calm temperament they are safely used by all family members for a variety of tasks such as ploughing, transporting water and firewood, and for riding.

For donkey owners to benefit optimally from these animals, the donkeys have to perform to the best of their abilities. To be able to work hard and well donkeys need to be in good health and condition. They should also be handled with consideration and need good harnessing that is correctly fitted. An injured, thin, whipped or overloaded donkey will not work as hard and for as long as a donkey that is well cared for and handled kindly.

This booklet is intended to assist donkey owners or donkey users to care for their donkeys and to set a minimum standard which, if followed, should ensure that the donkeys used for traction purposes are healthy, productive and well cared for.

 

 

General safety and care

Donkeys should never be beaten. Whips should be used only to make a noise and encourage the donkeys. Whips should not be used on donkeys except when absolutely necessary, and then only once, lightly on the hindquarters. If a donkey isn't working well, make sure that it is not tired, overloaded or sick. A good owner will be able to use his/her voice to control well-trained and cared for donkeys.

Feed and water

Working animals require more and better feed than animals that are not working. This is especially important when there is little or poor grazing.

Resting periods

Resting periods are important for all working animals. It gives them time to cool down, their muscles can rest and they get a chance to graze and to drink.

 


Donkeys unhitched while
not working

 

 

Once an animal starts to sweat excessively or breathe very heavily, this is an indication that the animal is being worked too hard and is getting hot and tired. The driver must slow down, and allow the animals time to recover. When it is hot, the load is heavy or the road is difficult, the animals will require more frequent resting periods.

Grooming and care

Protection against flies

A simple attachment of very soft strands of rope or pieces of cloth to the head band on the halter will help to keep flies away from the eyes. Make sure pieces are long enough and hang neatly down, with no sharp pieces or edges that could irritate the donkey's eyes

 

 

Hooves

Donkeys don't wear shoes like horses. Therefore, wherever possible they should be worked on soft surfaces, because working for long distances or constantly on hard ground, especially tarred roads, can wear down and damage their hooves and can cause lameness. The donkey will then not be able to work.

Tethering

Hobbles

Correct method of hobbling a donkey using the two front feet

Pregnant donkeys

Donkeys and young foals

Donkeys "in season"

Harnessing

The best material for harnessing is leather, but rubber or canvas can also be used. Whatever material is used though, must fit well and not injure the animal. Padding may be necessary to prevent injuries.

 

Typical donkey harnessing and common names

All harnessing, when not on the animals, should be hung on a hook in a clean, dry place. If harnessing is left out in the sun and rain, it will not last as long and will become hard and dry and cause injuries to the animals.

Leather harnessing should be rubbed with oil often, to keep it soft and protect it, especially against rain. Hard or cracked leather should never be used on animals. Rubber or canvas harnessing should be washed or brushed regularly to clean it.

Ideally every working donkey should have its own breastplate, bridle and bit. If however, this is not possible, then every time the harnessing is put onto the donkey it must be checked and adjusted if necessary to ensure that it fits well and will not hurt the donkey in any way.

Harnesses should not be repaired with wire, or any other material that can cause injury to the animals. All joints should ideally be made on the outside of the harness, away from the skin of the animal.

Breastplates and backstraps

Bridles and blinkers

Chains and ropes

Bits

Two types of bit that are acceptable for use on donkeys (arrows show the `front' of the bit that should face out of the mouth)

 

 

Carts

Working pairs or teams

Badly-matched animals

Well-matched animals

 

Packs

Donkeys carrying poorly-fitted packs

 

 
A donkey carrying a pack, showing the type of equipment used

 

 

Harnessing for ploughing or field work


Correct harnessing: donkey ploughing with the use of the breastplate


Incorrect harnessing: donkey ploughing with a yoke designed for use with oxen

 

Acknowledgements

D. J. HANEKOM, Institute for Agricultural Engineering, Agricultural Research Council.

P. A. JONES, Donkey Power Teaching and Consultancy, Zimbabwe.

A. B. D. JOUBERT, Department of Agronomy, Animal Traction Centre, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Fort Hare.

R. C. KRECEK, Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria.

C.M.E. McCrindlE, Production Animal Medicine, Medical University of Southern Africa.

R. A. PEARSON, Draught Animal Research and Tropical Animal Production, University of Edinburgh.

J. REDMOND, National Donkey Protection Unit, Zimbabwe.

South African Network of Animal Traction (SANAT).

 

 

For further information contact the National Council of SPCAs, Farm Animal Unit,
P.O. Box 1320, Alberton 1450, South Africa
Tel (011) 907 3590 Fax (011) 907 4013