It’s snow time! Donkeys enjoy a brief winter frolic

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Sonny checking out the snow near his barn.
Sonny checking out the snow near his barn. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Farms run by international charity The Donkey Sanctuary remain temporarily closed to visitors, but work continues as normal, with the resident donkeys continue to receive the highest level of care by the charity’s dedicated grooms.

The charity’s Eccup centre near Leeds has released some photos of its herd playing in the recent, wintery snow showers in Yorkshire.

These include Sonny, an inquisitive ten-year-old donkey, who was captured playfully blowing flakes of snow off the wall, while Piglet and Doug enjoyed the snow in a nearby field.

Barns and shelters are provided for the donkeys, who are not as able to keep as warm as horses in Britain’s cold, damp winters.

Research has shown that while donkeys are highly adapted to harsh, semi-arid environments, they are not so hardy in the cold. A study in 2019 found that most donkeys seek shelter when it starts to rain and when temperatures drop below 14 degrees.

In contrast, across all weather conditions observed, most horses can be found outside.

Donkeys in the snow at the Eccup centre, near Leeds.
Donkeys in the snow at the Eccup centre, near Leeds. © The Donkey Sanctuary

Research by the University of Portsmouth equine behaviour expert Dr Leanne Proops showed that donkeys needed man-made protection from the wind and rain.

“While it’s true they’re highly adapted to the harsh, semi-arid environments, it would be wrong to assume this hardiness allows them to thrive under all conditions,” Proops said.

“Our results showed that unlike horses, donkeys are not able to adjust their hair coat weight, hair length and width in response to colder, winter weather, which suggests donkeys need welfare guidelines separate to those for horses.”

Doug, at left, and Piglet in the recent snow at Leeds.
Doug, at left, and Piglet in the recent snow at Leeds. © The Donkey Sanctuary

 

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