SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES WITH HORSES
The most obvious difference between donkeys and horses is, of course, their ears. Generally about twice the length of horses’ ears, the donkey’s long ears are thought to be an evolutionary adaptation that developed for reasons similar to the bray, the donkey’s distinctive, loud call.
The earliest donkeys and their ancestors navigated sparse, rocky settings, and as such, sometimes had to separate from each other to find food. The ears and the bray (which can be heard from as far away as a mile) enabled donkeys to communicate with each other over great distances.
Donkeys and horses also differ significantly from one another in their feet. A donkey’s hoof is more upright
than that of a horse. If his hooves become overgrown, a donkey seems to be walking on high heels or stilts.
The donkey’s foot allows him to more easily navigate difficult lt terrain. “When I first started riding my Mammoth, I was shocked at how these donkeys would plow through rocks and underbrush without even blinking an eye, where a horse would jump over it, or not want to go,” Moore says.
Donkeys don’t generally need shoes, but they do need trims every six to eight weeks, like horses. Other maintenance, too, is similar: Donkeys require regular deworming and annual shots for rabies and West Nile virus. (There are no vaccines specific to donkeys; they are given equine medication and vaccines, adjusted for proportion.) They’ll need their teeth floated every year or two, and they must have a Coggins test to cross state lines.
For most people wanting to match a horse with a donkey, a Standard donkey is often the first choice. There are three types of donkeys: Minis, which are under 36 inches; Standards, 36 to 54 inches; and Mammoths, more than 54 inches.
Mammoths are the only donkey that can safely be ridden by a large adult. For standards, the rule of thumb is that a donkey can carry 25 percent of its body weight, with tack. This precludes most adults from riding a standard donkey for any length of time without injury to the donkey’s back or legs. Most, however, can pull a cart with an adult in it with no negative effect.
Donkeys don’t generally need shoes, but they do need trims every six to eight weeks, like horses.