Donkeys are often painted as stubborn, slow and dull - something that we at The Donkey Sanctuary know for a fact is untrue. These five donkey facts show that we could all do with being a little more like our four-legged friends.
As the forefront global experts in donkey behaviour, we know that donkeys are not only complex and intelligent: they are inspiring animals. If you're tired of scrolling past the same news on your screen, we encourage you to learn something new about these incredible equines.
1. Donkeys are life-long lovers
Take our popular pair Laurel and Hardy. To see them here in the snow, or on meeting them at our sanctuary in Sidmouth, it would be hard to guess the difficulties they have gone through together.
Luckily, when we found them in a desperate state, the couple had already bonded for life. Throughout their difficult rescue, they had each other for comfort and support. Ten years later, they are still quite the happy couple. Loyal and affectionate, it's unlikely you'll ever see one of them without the other grazing by their side.
2. A donkey's smile is its super-power
If you think a donkey is smiling at you, think again.
Behind a donkey's 'smile' is, in fact, an additional way for them to process smells. Curling up their lips and exposing their teeth is known as a 'flehmen response'. It helps them transfer interesting or unfamiliar scents to an organ just above the roof of their mouth that processes smells.
3. Donkeys' natural instincts help the environment
You may think that the donkey you see digging here is causing a nuisance - but in fact, he's employing a natural instinct that would provide a lifeline to smaller species if he were wild.
In desert areas, feral and wild donkeys dig to access groundwater. The little wells they create not only help themselves, but they also sustain much smaller animals that would otherwise struggle to access water in the scorching heat.
4. Don't judge a donkey by a Christmas card: donkeys come in all shapes and sizes
Donkeys are not only small and brown or grey, as they are so often depicted on Christmas cards: we know for a fact that many at The Donkey Sanctuary are real head-turners.
A 'little donkey on the dusty road' is the first thought many people have when they picture this reliable equine. There are in fact 186 breeds of donkeys - from the Miniature Mediterranean donkey at 31 inches tall to the matted-haired Poitou donkeys standing at 63 inches tall - and they come in a variety of coat types and colours.
5. A donkey will loyally protect their herd - no matter what species it is
As well as being fiercely loyal to their bonded partners, donkeys are also renowned for their ability to protect large herds.
The 'guard dog' of the equine world, donkeys are not concerned by what species they live with when it comes to warning their owners of potential dangers. Donkeys are often loved greatly by farming communities by account of their loud braying. A donkey's warning bray is particularly important when the animals they live with are at risk of being stolen or preyed on.