Grit Blogs > The Daily Commute

Donkeys are Great Companions

By Hank Will, Editor-in-Chief

Tags: donkeys, sheep, farms, livestock,

After having a couple of donkeys around for a few months, I have to admit that they are great companions. In fact, they are almost as fun to be around as the dogs … and it is because donkeys like people. 

 Donkeys are great companions.

I was cool with the whole donkey addition because we planned to bring sheep to the farm in 2008, and I wasn’t too keen on the idea of leaving them to fend off the coyotes on their own. Well, we got the donkeys, but not the sheep. Actually, we have a ram, but he still lives at my friend Bryan’s farm. I just didn’t get our fence upgrade completed in time … in fact it still isn’t completed. Oh, did I mention that it was Bryan that convinced me that donkeys would be fun? He was right.

Our male (jack) donkey, Jack is said to be at least 7 years old (the previous owners weren’t for sure). Our female, Valentine, is not quite a year. After keeping them separated for months, we finally turned them both in with the cattle and after a bit of chasing around, they have become fast companions. In fact they pretty much ignore the cattle and have formed their own little mini-herd.

Donkeys love treats.

Now, whenever we walk the pastures, Jack and Valentine come running. They heel better than any of our dogs and are tall enough that we don’t have to bend over to chuck them under the chin. Of course, the donkeys are really more interested in the all-natural, hormone-free range cubes or  in my coat pocket than they are in being  my companion, but I will take their affection, and gladly rub them here and there, either way.

Some folks won’t have an intact jack donkey around their place, but so far, Jack hasn’t been any hassle at all. We used to keep anywhere from 15 to 25 Angus bulls around (breeding stock was part of our business), so handling large rambunctious boys is nothing new. And Jack is far from rambunctious.

In time, we will rely on Jack and Valentine to keep the flock safe. In the meantime, they are great companions, and that is just fine with us.

Hank Will raises hair sheep, heritage cattle and many varieties of open-pollinated corn with his wife, Karen, on their rural Osage County, Kansas farm. His home life is a perfect complement to his professional life as editor in chief at GRIT and Capper's Farmer magazines. Connect with him on .

8/4/2015 5:57:39 AM

This article makes me a bit angry. As the facility manager of a satellite adoption center for Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, knowing you have a jack with a jennet will only contribute to the epidemic of donkeys going to slaughter. Literally thousands are being sent to slaughter every year here. I don't understand why people will not geld or neuter their animals. The responsibilities of animal ownership include not adding to the overpopulation of companion animals, which many people consider donkeys to be. I will not even talk about using a donkey as a guard. I have loved this magazine and have looked forward to the helpful emails bit I will not support anyone who does not take responsibility for their animals.

12/1/2009 10:15:59 PM

Help! Need to borrow a donkey! Every year our little community of Horton, KS puts on the Christmas Luminarias--19 scenes from the life of Christ. It happens this weekend, December 6th, and the little donkey we've relied on for years died a month ago. We thought we'd be able to find a replacement, but so far nothing. Either too wild or no longer in the area. The donkey will be used in the "No Room in the Inn" scene. Usually our Mary sits on the donkey, but she could just stand beside him and let him eat if necessary. Does anyone out there have a donkey (not miniature) that we could borrow for a few hours 5-8:30 Sunday, Dec. 6? Call 486-2785 or 486-3862, ask for Viki Stone or Pastor Tom Stone or leave a message. Thank you!

11/15/2009 12:17:45 PM

I have a Blm Jack. He is about 6yrs old. I am the 3rd owner of him. I got him as a companion for my blind Belgian mare, whom I've had for Her mother (my beloved Kate) died last yr, she was Penneys eyes. The jack (Banjo) is a great compaion, but is totally wearing me down as far as doing his feet. I have the farrier every 8wks and Banjo has to be held by someone while the farrier works on him. I've tried working with Banjo, but he is getting more stuborn than ever. He has thrush is both back feet and needs to be tended to everyday (lots of luck). I'm close to 70yrs old and by myself, so it's difficult to pick up his feet. I've watched some videos on training a wild donkey, but it hasn't helped. The only thing I can think of is building him a shoeing stock like the one I have for Penney only smaller or give him up, which I would feel very bad about. I don't give up my animals, they are my family. Anybody with some suggestion would be greatly appreciated. Thanks and have a great day.

angala marshall_1
5/26/2009 5:44:34 AM

My husband and I recently acquired a donkey and we have come to love "Jasper." We have 3 boys who spend time with him, and he brays so wonderfully when he sees them after school. We have only had him for 2 weeks and already he seems a part of the family. We are finally putting up an electric fence for him and are currently looking for a Jenny for him. I'm concerneed that the electric fence will not be enough for him, and this is the first livestock that we have owened...any tips, do's or dont's that I should be aware of? He's loving and the previous owners said he would ride, but I hesitate the riding until he is secure with the surroundings?

jeff markley
3/3/2009 8:39:41 PM

My brother, Danny, said that he sold Grit in 1972 in Fulton County, Ohio. 30 papers (back then) all sold at the courthouse in Fulton County. $0.25/issue.

jeff markley
3/3/2009 8:39:24 PM

My brother, Danny, said that he sold Grit in 1972 in Fulton County, Ohio. 30 papers (back then) all sold at the courthouse in Fulton County. $0.25/issue.

3/1/2009 3:29:31 PM

Hi Hank! Found our way to the website and have been thrilled to see the donkeys doing so well!! We are in our kidding season now. You should come out and see the little boer goat babies...they are toooooo cute! P.S. Don't forget the peppermints!! :)

karen patton
1/18/2009 8:32:51 AM

Hank, Hurray another donkey convert. My donkeys were BLM donkeys at one time and arrived at our home not even halter broke. They are now family members and a constant source of amusement. Both of my donkeys are fasinated with the grandkids,if they appear at the fence the donks come running. So glad you have found them to be delightful too

cindy murphy
1/6/2009 5:31:44 PM

Hi, Hank and Becky. My boss's donkeys had no issues with the electric fence that enclosed their pasture. I don't know much about them, but it seemed similar to what Hank described - a two-wire semi-permanent one. Most of the time it wasn't on - it was only after the horse died that the donkey tried to escape, and the fence had to be turned on again. If Kate does decide to ride the donkey, my boss swears they extremely gentle and loyal; she preferred riding the donkey over the horse. Sorry to hear you're home on doctor's orders, Hank. Mend quickly.

hank will_2
1/6/2009 4:43:38 PM

Hey Becky -- I love the braying. It doesn't happen that often, now that they are running together. Sometimes I hear it in the middle of the night to the east shortly before I hear the coyote chorus. That makes me smile. Our nearest neighbor is more than about 3/4 mile from most of our pastures. Our donkeys are totally down with the electric fence. They learned (here) on a two-wire semi-permanent fence. It is low-tensile with white step-ins about every 20 paces or so. Right now, a single temporary wire keeps them from the easternmost pasture. I have seen them race to the east many times and rather than jump the fence they could easily step ver, they pull up or turn back. That single wire puts out around 9500 volts now, so it isn't very forgiving. I think I finally have the local deer herd trained too. They jump all the fences more cleanly these days than a few moths ago.

becky and andy
1/6/2009 2:59:42 PM

Hank, Do you know if donkeys respect electric fencing like horses or like cattle? When I had a horse growing up, he'd plow right through any temp fences, so we had to go around and tie white scraps of cloth every few feet. Then he was able to "see" the fence and we didn't have another issue. The sheep need some sort of guard animal and I'm hesitant about a dog b/c I don't know if he'd tear apart our free-ranging hens. Are donkeys smarter than horses in the fencing aspect? They sure are cute. But we better check with the neighbors before we invest. Those brays can carry! Becky

hank will_2
1/6/2009 10:58:33 AM

Hey Cindy -- That is a great donkey story. We have discussed training the two as beasts of light burden. I think it would be fun to ride a donkey cart around the farm to bring in firewood instead of the UTVs. But I am clueless about training them. It would also be cool to see Kate riding around on one ... and it might get me out of having horses to look after in the future. I am a firm believer that herd animals need companions. I always wince a little when I hear that someone purchased a single cow for milk without any other grazing animal to keep it company. I also believe that those animals often get too humanized ... either way it makes them squirrelly. It's sunny and pushing into the 40s today. I am home on DR's orders after a close encounter with his video camera this morning ... the dream I had while I was under was fun though.

cindy murphy
1/6/2009 6:59:09 AM

Mornin' Hank, (it is here anyway). The nursery's owner says the same thing: donkeys make great companions. She's had a number of them over the year and used to ride the trails on the nursery property on donkeyback. She lives next door to the nursery; Smokey, her last donkey lived in a pasture that butted up against the nursery's retail area - he was a big hit with the customers. Out in the pasture during the summer, at times the biting flies would bother it, and its companion horse. To keep the flies off the donkey's legs, my boss used old tights - opaque, thick tights that the flies couldn't bite through. She'd cut off the panty part and the foot part and slip them up the donkey's leg like leg-warmers. Odd looking sight it was. The donkey doesn't live at the nursery anymore. It was given to a place where it could be with more of its own kind. After the horse died, the donkey was not quite the same; lonely without his equine companion, he'd escape the pasture and trot down the road in the morning. Looking for his friend, the horse? Not sure, but it was sad. Sadder still hearing the stories of her chasing him down the road in the mornings wearing her pajamas. My boss - not the donkey - he strictly stuck to women's leggings.