A knowledge and understanding of the unique characteristics of a donkey is valuable when handling, examining or carrying out a procedure.

The term ‘stoic’ is often used to describe donkey behaviour and we use it in relation to donkey behaviour throughout this book. Stoicism is typical predator-avoidance behaviour in a prey species such as the donkey; appearing strong and normal reduces the chances of a predator picking on you. This stoicity does not lessen the donkey’s ability to experience pain and distress.

The donkey’s behaviour is different from that of horses and ponies and it is crucial that this is taken into account when examining or attempting to carry out procedures. Their stoic nature serves them well but can lead to missing or misdiagnosing the severity of painful conditions. Their behaviour is often incorrectly labelled as stubborn, but a more accurate explanation for their behaviour is likely to be their sense of self-preservation. Using the correct behavioural principles and taking extra time will pay long term dividends when treating donkeys and mules.

The donkey is unlikely to show the dramatic signs of pain and distress exhibited by the horse and pony, even though it may be experiencing the same degree of pain.

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