Mothers come in all shapes and sizes here at The Donkey Sanctuary. With Mother’s Day (31 March) approaching, to celebrate and thank all the caring mother figures who have made life better for our donkeys, we’ve collected some of our most inspiring stories of motherhood.
Strong mother-daughter bond helps Daisy and Buttercup through a difficult recovery
“Please can you just take them?” was the plea from Daisy and Buttercup’s owner when our welfare adviser visited their home last year. Behavioural problems had prevented their owner from getting near the feet of the mother-daughter pair, and their hooves had become painfully overgrown.
High stress levels can cause disastrous health consequences for donkeys, so we were worried for the future of the pair, especially as their owner had considered having Daisy put to sleep.
Thankfully, the bond between Daisy and her three-year-old daughter Buttercup had become so strong that they were able to support each other through their relinquishment, rescue, and treatment of their overgrown hooves. Today, thanks to the hard work of our staff and volunteers, their lives have been completely turned around.
Paccombe Farm staff provide vital assistance to ensure a safe foaling
Fudge was already pregnant when she was rescued in early 2018, and as she was an inexperienced mother our staff were on standby to step in if complications arose.
Our worst fears were realised as Fudge went into labour. The foal had become stuck in a difficult position, and it was clear that Fudge might not be able to deliver him safely.
Thankfully our rescue team and the grooms at Paccombe Farm had been working patiently to earn Fudge's trust in people, and she allowed farm manager Neil and vet Abigail to help her safely give birth to little Coby. Fudge and Coby have formed an unbreakable mother-son bond in spite of the mare's inexperience. She is both loving and protective, and never far behind the playful young foal.
Donkey foster mother, Aunty Jingles, takes rejected foal Ben under her wing
Sadly inexperienced mares do not always form an instant bond with their foals. When two-year-old Millie refused to let her new-born foal Ben suckle, it was clear that she had rejected her son.
After initially stepping in to hand-rear Ben, staff introduced him to 10-year-old Jingles - now affectionately known as Aunty Jingles - and the rest is history. Experienced mum Jingles is a naturally calm and caring donkey, and quickly bonded to Ben as if he were her own.
While staff were still needed to bottle-feed Ben, Jingles has been a fantastic role model, teaching him social skills with other equines, and eventually to eat grass and food pellets. Meeting playful Ben now you’d never know this lovable boy had a such difficult start to life.
Volunteers commit to 24/7 care for orphaned foal Ashley
It wouldn’t be a celebration of mother-figures without acknowledging the role our Sidmouth team played in rearing orphaned foal Ashley, whose story has become well known amongst our supporters.
Ashley’s mother was brought to the sanctuary heavily pregnant in 2009. Tragically, there were severe complications during her labour while our expert veterinary team were able to save Ashley, his mother sadly passed away.
Unable to find a suitable foster mother for Ashley, our committed staff and volunteers took turns to care for Ashley in shifts 24 hours a day. Ashley was raised by hand with around-the-clock care until he was old enough to eat solid feed thanks to the selflessness of his new two-legged family.
Today Ashley is not only adored by staff at the sanctuary - and his best four-legged friends Zena and Mr Khan - but also by his amazing family of adopters who enable us to care for him and so many other donkeys in need.
Did You Know? 10 Facts about Donkey Motherhood:
A female donkey is called a mare, and can be pregnant for anywhere between 11 and 14 ½ months, making due dates very hard to predict
Donkey foals are often born at night under the cover of darkness. This is to allow the mare to hide her newborn from predators in the wild
When a mare gives birth, she licks her foal all over. This both cleans the foal and helps to form a strong bond between the two
Mares can be very protective of their foals. The meekest donkeys can be aggressive towards their closest friends if they perceive a threat to their foal
Foals learn a lot from their mothers about how to behave and survive. They will copy her by trying grass or solid feed, and by mimicking her behaviour towards other equines
It is very rare for a donkey to give birth to twins
Hinnies and mules (donkey and horse cross-breeds) are sterile by nature
After protecting her foal for the first few months of its life, a mare will start to wean her foal naturally and encourage them to be more independent
Foals are born with soft, jelly-like capsules called Eponychium - or ‘golden slippers’ - on their hooves which protect the mother during birth, and fall off shortly after
A foal’s legs are long enough to be able to suckle, but make grazing difficult until their neck grows and catches-up. In the meantime they will copy their mothers by splaying their front legs and stretching to reach blades of grass.
You can find out more about donkey foaling in our owners' guide.
Mother’s Day celebrates those who have cared for and nurtured us throughout our lives, and we’re so proud to share how our devoted staff, volunteers and supporters have enabled us to be there for all donkeys in our care.
If you’re looking for a unique gift for Mother’s Day, a donkey adoption can enable you to thank a caring mother-figure in your life with a present that will in turn extend care to donkeys in need.
Your loved one will receive our adoption pack, which includes beautiful portraits of your chosen donkey and a frame to display them, postcards, their adoption certificate and a membership card.
They’ll also receive information about the donkey they’re adopting, as well as updates throughout the year so they can see how their gift reaches out to donkeys and mules both here in the UK and around the world.