Last Updated on January 4, 2023
Understanding donkey body language can be difficult if you are only used to working with horses. Just why do donkeys stomp their feet? And how do we tell if a donkey is happy or sad? Let’s find out!
How Do You Read Donkey Body Language?
Donkey body language is considerably different from horse body language, and it is essential to take the time to learn what your donkey is trying to tell you. Donkeys are much more subtle and less demonstrative than horses, making it hard for us to understand how they are feeling.
If you are new to caring for donkeys, learning to read donkey body language can take time and patience. After all, most donkeys just appear calm and relaxed most of the time! But learning to recognize subtle signs can help you to understand when your donkey is unhappy or unwell.
Donkeys may be calm and placid, but they should still be interested in their surroundings. This may be just a turn of the head or pricking of the ears, and your donkey may resume its slumber once the object of interest has passed. Donkeys are playful, sociable, and fun-loving animals, but they also like long periods of solitude and rest.
It is important not to provoke a donkey that is trying to tell you that it feels uncomfortable with a situation, as this behavior can quickly escalate to aggression. A donkey on high alert will hold its head high and will walk at a brisk pace away from whatever has spooked it. If the donkey cannot leave the situation, it may pin its ears back and start pawing at the ground or stomping.
A distressed donkey may also start braying and rapidly swishing its tail. Observe the facial expression closely for signs such as flaring the nostrils, a tight, tense mouth, and pinched muzzle, and squinting of the eyes. In extreme situations, the donkey may start to tremble or shake over the entire body.
It can be hard to tell if a donkey is feeling affectionate, as the signs are so subtle! Donkeys use proximity to show affection, staying close to people or donkeys that they care about. This is why donkeys should never be kept alone, as they form strong relationship bonds with other donkeys.
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Why Do Donkeys Stomp Their Feet?
If you’ve never seen it, the famous donkey stomp is a sight to behold! But is a donkey stomping its feet always a sign of aggression, or could there be something else going on?
Why Do Donkeys Stomp Their Feet? If the donkey is not showing any other signs of discomfort, distress or aggression, it could simply be stomping its feet because it is bored or frustrated. This is a common behavior seen in donkeys that are kept confined or tied up for long periods, and they will stamp their feet and paw at the ground to communicate their displeasure.
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Another reason why donkeys stomp their feet is as a playful gesture towards other donkeys. This is particularly common in younger donkeys that like to play, and they will imitate fighting behavior by nipping at each other and stamping their feet. Some donkeys also like to play with toys such as footballs, stamping their feet on them and kicking them around.
Donkeys will also stomp their feet in response to irritation of the skin on the legs. This could be due to a mite infestation which causes intense itching of the skin. If your donkey persistently stomps its feet for no apparent reason, it is a good idea to book a consultation with your veterinarian to rule out parasites.
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How Do Donkeys Show Aggression?
You may have come across some sensational news stories and videos such as “donkey stomps coyote”, but why do donkeys show aggression, and how do we recognize the signs of aggression in donkeys?
Donkeys are well known to be very territorial and will chase off any unwanted visitors to their territory. A donkey will display many signals of aggression before it goes to the trouble of attacking a potential threat, as it will not want to use any unnecessary energy getting into a fight.
This is why donkeys have been known to chase wild animals such as coyotes from their territory, and will even grab smaller animals with their teeth and stomp on them. Unfortunately, this can be a problem if donkeys are kept alongside smaller domesticated animals such as poultry, dogs, and cats.
A donkey that feels highly anxious or threatened will swivel its ears backward and forwards rapidly, and it may paw angrily at the ground to show it is ready to charge. If the potential threat is behind the donkey, it will pin its ears back and lift a hind leg. In this situation, never walk behind the donkey, as they can lash out and kick with a hind leg very quickly.
In extreme situations, donkeys will bare their teeth or even threaten to bite. It pays to closely watch the eyes of a distressed donkey – if they are open so wide that you can see the whites of the eyes, they are feeling very unhappy with the situation.
Summary – Why Do Donkeys Stomp Their Feet?
So, as we have learned, donkeys will stomp their feet for many different reasons, and this form of behavior is part of the complex body language of donkeys. Donkeys that are bored or frustrated will stomp their feet, as will those that are trying to engage a fellow donkey in playful behavior. A donkey that feels threatened may stomp its feet as a sign of aggression, along with other indications such as baring its teeth and laying its ears flat.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on why do donkeys stomp their feet! Do you have a donkey that is particularly stubborn and shows signs of aggressive behavior? Or maybe you are in need of some training tips to help you get your donkey to do what you want it to do? Leave a comment below and we will get back to you!
Kate Chalmers is a qualified veterinary nurse who has specialized in horse care for the vast majority of her career. She has been around horses since she was a child, starting out riding ponies and helping out at the local stables before going on to college to study Horse Care & Management. She has backed and trained many horses during her lifetime and competed in various equestrian sports at different levels.
After Kate qualified as a veterinary nurse, she provided nursing care to the patients of a large equine veterinary hospital for many years. She then went on to teach horse care and veterinary nursing at one of the top colleges in the country. This has led to an in-depth knowledge of the care needs of horses and their various medical ailments, as well as a life-long passion for educating horse owners on how to provide the best possible care for their four-legged friends.
Kate Chalmers BSc (Hons) CVN, Dip AVN (Equine) Dip HE CVN EVN VN A1 PGCE