Donkeys play a vital role in industry across the world and need to be harnessed safely. Learn about some of the research we have conducted on the subject.

Donkeys play an essential role in agroforestry activities worldwide – from pulling logs out of forests in Mexico to carrying water or wood on their backs for homesteads in Ethiopia. In this way, working donkeys provide a vital energy source for millions of people around the globe.

Ill-fitting harnesses can cause nasty and painful injuries to the donkeys, which can, in turn, hamper performance and ultimately, if left untreated, lead to complications and even death.

Our researchers, working collaboratively alongside others, measured harness pressure on donkeys labouring in a controlled environment and while working in live agroforestry tasks, such as logging and ploughing land.

Monitoring donkeys in a controlled setting in Portugal, the team used pressure pads to assess the area and pressure distribution beneath different collar and saddle designs.

The project also assessed new collars developed using locally sourced materials and recycled products. There are clear environmental benefits to recycling materials, reducing the cost and carbon footprint required to manufacture new products.

With successful trials concluded in Portugal, research continued in Galicia, Spain. Here, the team monitored the force exerted by working donkeys in real-life logging and agricultural fieldwork, using a dynamometer placed between the donkeys and their load.

Overall, the project concluded design, appropriate padding and materials, and sound adjustment capacity are critical features for effective equine collars. These factors also protect the health and welfare of working donkeys.

We worked closely with collaborators, including the Polytechnic Institute of Braganca, Portugal, where phase one took place.