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The beast of burden

  • The term “beast of burden” seems to have been claimed by the donkey for its own!
  • There are reputed to be about 44 million donkeys and mules in the world today, most of them contributing draft power for agriculture and transport.
  • Donkeys are reputed to be able to pull three times their own weight.
  • They are alert, intelligent and cautious animals and these are useful traits when used to carry loads. 
  • Panic is the last thing you want and if a donkey perceives danger it will generally stay rooted to the spot.
  • The classical image of the donkey in many parts of the world today is that of a small animal with a monstrous load, or an oversize person on its back being goaded along with a stick from behind rather than being led.
  • It is recommended that 51-52kg should be the maximum weight for a 10-11hands high donkey to carry.
  • Donkeys are the classical pack animal for when the going gets tough, as apart from their strength, they are extremely sure footed.
  • Their strong innate ability to follow each other is exploited when they are used as pack animals as no leads are needed as in packing with horses.
  • Donkeys are not built to gallop like the horse with their like the zebra trot.  Even when bolting they will not go far.
  • With narrow shoulders they are not as comfortable a ride as a horse.
  • Some riders advocate sitting on the strongest part of the donkey’s back on top of the rump at the hips. 
  • Donkeys jump high with a “standing start” up against the obstacle or fence.  In American and Canada they have special “Coon Jumping” classes and competitions at their farm shows to demonstrate this skill.
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