Donkeys And Horses Living Together – Is It Possible?

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Last Updated on March 29, 2022

Have you ever wondered how people keep donkeys and horses living together? Or is it even possible to keep horses and donkeys together?

The intriguing thing about donkeys and horses is that they are not only different in their appearance.  They are also very dissimilar in other ways. They have different personality traits, behaviors, and social networks. Because of this, it may not be easy to keep a donkey with horses.

Let’s take a look at what makes donkeys and horses so different. We’ll find out how they socialize and discuss whether horses and donkeys living together can be a good or a bad thing.

Are Donkeys Friendly With Horses?

Donkeys may be the same species as horses, but there are some big differences in how they socialize and interact. Donkeys are deeply loyal to their herd mates. They will often develop a strong bond with one other donkey in particular. If separated, the paired donkeys will become sad and depressed and may refuse to eat.

Horses do not normally develop a pair bond in this way, although they may have favorite friends in the herd. Instead, they have a hierarchy or ‘pecking order’ within the herd. Horses and ponies will groom, eat and play with each other depending on where they rank in the herd dynamics.

Are Donkeys Friendly With Horses

If you kept a group of horses and a group of donkeys in the same field as each other, they would most likely naturally segregate themselves. They would only start to integrate if you had just one horse or donkey in with a herd of the opposite kind.

Another horse would not be the first choice of best friend for a donkey. However, if there are no donkey friends available then a donkey may try to bond with a horse. This can be tricky if you want to ride your horse or take it out of the field, as the donkey may become very distressed.

Can You Keep Horses And Donkeys Together?

Horses, ponies, and donkeys can live together very happily, as long as they are given the appropriate living conditions. These different types of equines will tolerate each other well, and it is unusual for one type to bully another. It can be more difficult to keep just one donkey with horses, as they will want to find a best friend in the herd.

Horses do not normally develop a deep bond like this, so your donkey may feel lonely and rejected. If the donkey is spending a lot of time away from the herd, then it is likely that his social needs are not being fulfilled. However, some top-level competition horses have a donkey best friend! This donkey companion will travel to shows and events with their horse’s best friend.

Remember that your donkey will not enjoy being left alone. If you are looking for a companion for your riding horse then a donkey may not be the solution. Many people end up getting another pony or donkey to keep the companion donkey company!

The Donkey Companion: Selecting, Training, Breeding, Enjoying & Caring for Donkeys

Donkeys also live for a long time, with a lifespan of up to 30 years. Taking on a donkey is a long-term commitment, and they do not respond well to moving from home to home. Your donkey will want to stay with you and his herd until his final days, so be prepared for this!

There are some health problems associated with donkeys and horses living together. One of the biggest issues is a type of internal parasite called lungworm, or Dictyocaulus arnfieldi. This parasite is normally carried by donkeys without any major issues, but it can cause ill health in horses and ponies.

How To Keep Horses And Donkeys Together

Amazingly, some horses have never seen a donkey. They can be very startled when they meet one for the first time! Make sure you introduce the horses and donkeys gradually as you would any other equines. Allow them to get to know each other over a fence first. It would be a good idea to keep them in adjacent paddocks for a few days before putting the horses and donkeys together.

Ensure that there are multiple feeding and watering stations available in the paddock, to prevent any fighting or bullying. You may need to separate your donkeys from your horses at feed times to make sure that each gets the correct rations.

To combat the potential lungworm problem, any new donkeys must be tested for lungworm when they arrive and treated if necessary. It is vital to have a targeted worm control strategy for the whole herd. This should including regular testing, targeted worming, and removal of droppings from the land daily.

Donkeys must be provided with adequate shelter. Their coats are not waterproof and they will quickly feel cold if they become wet. Whereas horses are normally quite tough and will shelter under a hedge or tree, donkeys should be provided with a purpose-built field shelter.

It is vital that donkeys have a dry area to stand, as their feet will quickly deteriorate in wet or mud. For this reason, many donkeys are kept in an indoor barn through the winter, which may not be suitable for horses.

Monitor your donkey and horse herd closely for the first few weeks. Make sure that each donkey has found a best friend, and that no one is left outside of the herd for long periods of time.


So, as we’ve learned, donkeys and horses have very different social dynamics. They can live together quite happily as long as their social and other needs are met. Donkeys do need to pair-bond with another equine, which horses may not be quite so amenable to.

Donkeys also carry an internal parasite, lungworm, which poses a health risk to horses. People who wish to keep donkeys and horses living together must be aware of this and test the whole herd regularly for worms.

We’d love to hear about your experiences – have you known any donkeys and horses living together? Or maybe you have questions about keeping a horse with a donkey? Add a comment below this post and we’ll get back to you!

Do donkeys calm horses?

There are many reasons why donkeys are used as guard animals for cattle, sheep and goats. They keep away canines and therefore protect the cattle from predators. They are docile and can be trained to obey commands. Donkeys are also very patient and gentle. They can learn a variety of tricks. They’re often used as companion animals for horses due to the calming effect they have on nervous horses. Donkeys are usually very calm and when they are in a group of other animals, they don’t show aggression or get upset if one animal is distressed. This is because they are pack animals and they look after each other. 

Whats a good companion for a horse?

Donkeys, miniature horses, and ponies are quite common companions for horses. But horses can as well feel comforted by dogs, cats, cows, sheep, goats, alpacas, and llamas. Horses are social animals that like the company of each other and of other animals. They will bond with any animal that they are comfortable around and that is not harmful to them. A horse will usually bond with any animal that it sees as a friend, whether or not that animal is an equine. 

Which is smarter horse or donkey?

Many people think that donkeys are smarter than horses. They are actually very intelligent animals who don’t scare as easily as horses. They normally freeze when scared. Staying put, instead of fleeing, is probably how they earned their reputation of being stubborn.
But donkeys are really quite smart. They are very adaptable animals, and can live on just about any type of land. They are also good at detecting danger. Donkeys have a higher survival rate in natural disasters than horses do. Donkeys can survive for a long time without food and water, and donkeys are more resistant to disease than horses are. Donkeys are also good at being around people. They are generally friendly and affectionate animals that will want to be near you. They enjoy having contact with other animals, and they are often seen walking alongside cattle.

Why can horses and donkeys mate?

Horses are closely related to donkeys, and although they have different looks and additional two chromosomes in the horses, they belong to the same family and genus, so they can easily interbreed and produce offspring. However, the offspring is normally sterile which means they can’t reproduce. 
A male horse and a female donkey offspring is called a hinny and a female horse and a male donkey offspring is called a mule. They are widely used as pack animals, transportation for people, farm animal, and even pets. 

Is a donkey and mule the same thing?

Donkeys are part of the equine family, but are a different species from horses. They were originally bred in Egypt or Mesopotamia about 5,000 years ago. They were domesticated and used for labor, pulling carts and plowing fields. They are usually considered to be stubborn, willful and difficult to train. The donkeys were kept as pets in the Middle East, and were also used for riding. Today they are found throughout the world and are used for work, recreation, and as pets. 
Mules are actually a cross between a female horse and a male donkey or “jack”. Mules are very similar to donkeys, but tend to have more muscle. 

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