Britain’s second-favourite farm animal unveiled: The humble donkey

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It’s love: Donkeys are the second favourite farm animal in Britain. © The Donkey Sanctuary

It’s official: Despite often being considered “stubborn”, donkeys are one of Britain’s favourite animals, a study has revealed.

A YouGov poll for international animal welfare charity The Donkey Sanctuary found that donkeys were Britain’s second favourite farm animal.

Unlike horses, who topped the poll with (24%), donkeys (17%) are not native to Europe, yet the British public still hold these loyal and affectionate animals close to their hearts.

Donkeys have long suffered an unfair reputation and this was borne out in the poll results with 55% of people quizzed, wrongly believing they were stubborn.

Of all the baby animals out there, few are as cute as a donkey foal.
Of all the baby animals out there, few are as cute as a donkey foal. © The Donkey Sanctuary

But donkeys are highly intelligent animals, The Donkey Sanctuary’s Animal Behaviourist Ben Hart explains: “The donkeys’ stoic nature means when compared to horses, they show more subtle body language when in pain or distress. Donkeys also have a strong sense of self-preservation and are unwilling to do things that they perceive as dangerous.

“The donkeys’ stoic nature, minimal body language, and their natural propensity to freeze when threatened or frightened, combined with a reluctance to put themselves at risk, results in donkeys commonly being mislabelled as stupid or stubborn. I believe anyone that calls a donkey stupid, has simply been outsmarted by one!”

Encouragingly, the research also found that 89% of people are aware that donkeys carry out an important role in helping communities around the world.

Not stubborn: Donkeys have a stoic nature and a strong sense of self-preservation and un-willingness to do things that they perceive as dangerous. © The Donkey Sanctuary

A Donkey Sanctuary report published in November 2019 stated that 500 million people in the world’s poorest communities still rely on working donkeys as a lifeline to support their livelihoods.

In Nepal donkeys play a critical role working alongside communities to produce six billion bricks that are then used throughout the world in the construction industry, and in the rural areas of Ethiopia, where donkeys are used in farming and transportation.

Mike Baker, CEO at The Donkey Sanctuary said: “It’s great to hear that people understand just how important donkeys are. Owning a working donkey means survival for some of the poorest and most vulnerable communities in the world. They enable their owners to participate in work and boost economic capacity.

“They help enable children to receive an education and help promote gender equality by allowing women to be economically active. The role of these hardworking animals is vital and their status should never be underplayed.”

The French poitou donkey is among several breeds of the long-eared equids. © The Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary will be launching a myth-busting campaign called #donkeysdebunked on the August Bank Holiday to champion these gentle, intelligent and hardworking animals and help reverse their unfair reputation for being stubborn.

The Donkey Sanctuary is a global leader for equine welfare, research and veterinary care. The charity operates programmes worldwide for animals working in agriculture, industry and transportation.

» #donkeysdebunked will be launched on Facebook and https://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk/.

Donkeys fill many roles around the world.
Donkeys fill many roles around the world. © The Donkey Sanctuary

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. The total sample size was 2101 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 10-11 March 2020, and the survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

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