behaviour

Comparison of the socio-economic value and welfare of working donkeys in rural and urban Ethiopia

Donkeys (Equus asinus) are widely used throughout Ethiopia and play essential roles in a variety of everyday and income-generating tasks for the people that use them. The challenges faced by people and their working equids vary across communities and geographic locations. This may have implications for how donkeys are perceived by the people they work for, the roles they fulfil and ultimately their welfare.

Two complementary methodological approaches were used in this study to explore the socio-economic value of donkeys for their owners and the welfare of the donkeys in rural and urban Ethiopia.

Using a questionnaire, donkey owners were asked about their donkeys, their attitudes and beliefs related to donkey use and ownership, and the role donkeys played in their lives.

Animal-based welfare assessments were also conducted on a sample of donkeys from different locations, with the overarching aim of the study to investigate differences in use, beliefs, and donkey welfare between rural and urban locations.

In both rural and urban locations, working donkeys are critical for their owners' income-generating activity and therefore their livelihoods. The work they undertake differs substantially between locations, as does their welfare. Work in each setting presents its own challenges and these are reflected in the behaviour and physical health of the donkeys. Rural donkeys showed more apathetic behaviour, a higher ectoparasite burden and greater evidence of tethering/hobbling. Urban donkeys were more alert and had a wider range of body condition scores.

The findings highlight marked differences in the role and welfare of donkeys between different areas within the same country, demonstrating the importance of understanding the context, both from the perspective of humans and working equids, prior to staging interventions intended to benefit either party.

Journal
Volume
30
Issue
3
Start page
269
End page
277
Publication date
Country

Social relations in a mixed group of mules, ponies and donkeys reflect differences in equid type

Donkeys and mules are frequently kept as companion animals for horses and ponies, with these different equids often being considered a homogenous group. However, the extent to which domestic equids form inter-specific bonds and display similar social behaviour when living in a mixed herd has not previously been studied. Here we compare the social organization of these three (sub)species when housed together, providing the first systematic analysis of how genetic hybridization is expressed in the social behaviour of mules. A group of 16 mules, donkeys and ponies was observed for 70 h and preferred associates, dominance rank and the linearity of the group’s hierarchy was determined. The different equids formed distinct affiliative groups that were ordered in a linear hierarchy with ponies as the most dominant, mules in the middle ranks and donkeys in the lowest ranks. Within each equid subgroup, the strength of the hierarchy also varied. Thus in the present study, the three (sub)species displayed different social organization and levels of dominance and preferred to associate with animals of the same equid type, given the opportunity. These results suggest that different domestic equid (sub) species display variations in social behaviour that are likely to have a strong genetic basis.

Publication date
Country

Gastrointestinal disorders of donkeys and mules

A review of common gastrointestinal disorders of donkeys and mules is presented. Clinically relevant aspects of donkey behavior, anatomy, and physiology are highlighted. Diagnosis, management, and treatment of conditions affecting the gastrointestinal tract from stomach to rectum, including liver and pancreas, are discussed.

Published online ahead of print.

Volume
35
Issue
3
Start page
419
End page
432
Publication date
Country

Donkey and mule behaviour for the veterinary team

The donkey's evolution, ethology and learning capacity mean that the behaviour of donkeys and mules is significantly different to that of the horse. Subtle behaviour change in the donkey can indicate severe, life-threatening disease. An understanding of donkey and mule behaviour will help veterinary surgeons to handle these animals safely, treat them effectively and educate owners to spot the subtle signs of disease

Journal
Volume
3
Issue
1
Start page
27
End page
32
Publication date
Country

Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys

Clinical evaluation and preventative care in donkeys should follow similar guidelines as for horses. There are species-specific differences due to the desert-adapted physiology of the donkey. Donkeys are mainly used as pack animals, companions and for production of meat or milk - they may be kept well into old age. Diseases often present late or may go unrecognized leading to poor welfare and quality of life. Basic knowledge of nutrition, blood values, pharmacology and common disease recognition will help veterinarians improve the health and welfare of donkeys.

Published online ahead of print.

Volume
35
Issue
3
Start page
545
End page
560
Publication date
Keywords
Country

Assessment of donkey temperament and the influence of the home environment

The temperament of individual donkeys being sent to foster homes from The Donkey Sanctuary was evaluated with a calibrated-line rating method using eight pairs of contrary adjectives to describe traits, e.g. calm-nervous. The donkeys' attitude to other animals and people was also recorded. A factor analysis of normalized scores for the trait adjective pairs produced two factors: 'obduracy' and 'vivacity'. Once in their foster homes, the donkeys appeared more overtly outgoing. One explanation of this change in temperament is that pairs of donkeys in foster homes experience less social intimidation than those living in groups. The donkeys' attitude towards other donkeys and people was unaffected by their change in surroundings, but their behaviour towards other animals could change. Temperament assessment can assist in matching potential pets with homes, e.g. donkeys that were perceived as liking humans had a higher 'vivacity' score and donkeys that were reported to like dogs, had a lower 'obduracy' score.

Volume
36
Start page
249
End page
257
Publication date
Keywords
Country

Stubborn donkey or smart ass?

Ben Hart
Presentation date

Does the evolutionary history of donkeys lead to behaviours that are misunderstood and contribute to the donkeys’ reputation for being stubborn?

The behaviour of donkeys is an understudied subject. The donkey’s behaviour is commonly misunderstood principally because their behaviour is compared to that of the horse, rather than viewed as a separate species. Mistreatment of donkeys takes place because of the subtle behaviour patterns and stoic nature which are overlooked by handlers and observers who are more familiar with horse behaviour. By looking at the domesticated donkeys’ evolutionary niche and the behaviour of both free living donkeys and domesticated donkeys it possible to explain the different behaviours of donkeys and to lay to rest their reputation for stubbornness and their misrepresentation as small horses with big ears.

This presentation will examine the behaviour of donkeys in the wild, the effects of environment on social structure in Asiatic and African asses, and the effects on behaviour of solitary living and territory guarding both in the wild and domestic situation.

Keywords
Not published as conference proceedings

Mind the gap: spatial perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple detour task

Britta Osthaus
Faith A. Burden
Ian Hocking
Leanne Proops
Presentation date

We compared spatial problem solving abilities in the mule (Equus asinus x Equus caballus) with that of its parent species to assess the effects of hybridization on cognition. In a detour task the animals(N=48) were required to make a detour through a gap at one end of a straight barrier in order to reach a visible target. After one, two, three or four repeats (A trials), the gap was moved to the opposite end of the barrier (B trials) and deviations from the straight line and the latency to crossing the barrier were recorded. Mules performed significantly above chance level on their first detour, unlike the other two species. We discuss our results with reference to hybrid vigour and to the flexibility of problem solving strategies with regards to species differences.

Country
Not published as conference proceedings

A case study to investigate how behaviour in donkeys changes through progression of disease

Gabriela Olmos
Gemma McDonald
Florence Elphick
Neville G. Gregory
Faith A. Burden
Presentation date

Donkeys have a limited repertoire of non-specific signs displayed when in pain or sick. This study looked closely at donkey behaviour during the progression of different diseases with the aim of improving pain and sickness recognition.

Video footage of a group of 79 donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary was obtained for 6 months; where 45 diseased cases observed. Due data completes, four cases were selected [Cases A) with respiratory disease due to herpes virus (n=2) and Cases B) end-stage cases (hyperlipaemia, n=1; chronic laminitis, n=1)] plus four healthy controls (n=4). Cases A were observed for 8hrs on day -10 and -1 prior to disease onset (day 0 = first veterinary visit) and during treatment (day 1, 5 and 10). Cases B were observed for 8hrs on day -7, -3 and on the day of euthanasia (day 0). Total time (minutes) performing 47 different behaviours were compared between (painful/sick vs. healthy) and within donkeys using chi-square or fisher’s exacts tests.

Diseased donkeys in cases A and B spent on average 10% more time (range, 3 - 17%, p<0.01) with a lowered head carriage compared to controls. Conversely, they spent 15% less time (range 6 - 34%, P<0.04) with their ears in combinations (i.e. each ear in opposite direction), thus meaning ears were more static and unresponsive. Ear changes were subtle but were the earliest indicators of pain/sickness in the observed donkeys. Cases B compared to the controls spent 31% more time in recumbency (range 7 - 60%, p<0.01), and 40% less time eating (range 1 - 64%, p<0.01). The reduction in total eating time was not substituted by any other oral behaviour (e.g. drinking, grooming, licking, and investigative behaviours), where drinking and grooming were greatly affected in the donkey with hyperlipaemia. Finally, abdominal effort was only observed in cases A and tended to reduce with time on treatment (p=0.06).

Donkeys are working animals of great importance worldwide, and these results highlight useful behavioural changes that can be used as monitoring signs of pain/sickness in these animals. The potential use of these signs warrants further studies in greater and more diverse donkey populations.

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