Donkey Dynamics

What might cause a young male donkey to suddenly split from the herd? An equine behaviorist offers insight.
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Donkey Dynamics
Unlike horses, donkeys have a territorial social organization by which breeding males mark and guard their territories, mating with jennies as they wander through. | Photo: iStock

Q. I have four donkeys: two males and two females that are parents and offspring. The parents are maybe 6 years old, the offspring 3 and 2 years old. The males have been housed in a pasture together for about a year, with the females together across the street. Four months ago we put them all together. Everything has been fine, everyone is happy to be together, and they are always together.

Four days ago, seemingly overnight, there was a split of some sort. The young male is no longer with the group. They had always stayed together previously. I didn’t see him with the others all day, so I searched the 60 acres they are on and found him over in the back 40 on the other side of a creek. This is odd and not an area they would usually spend time in. I called to him, he was all excited and came running to me. I walked back to my truck, and he followed just fine.

Since then, I am seeing him very little, and he is never with the others. I found him again last night hanging out with some of the cows, grazing. His health seems fine

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Sue M. McDonnell, PhD, is a certified applied animal behaviorist and the founding head of the equine behavior program at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine. She is also the author of numerous books and articles about horse behavior and management.

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