A Donkey’s Diet

On a past road trip, I stopped at one of those local roadside merchants. You know the ones, with the bright, colorful signs, each promising to have the areas best merchandise. Merchandise remarkably similar to the store you’ve just past and another one roughly 10 miles up the road ahead. Of course these little roadside shops cater mainly to tourists, but I’m sure there’s probably a loyal fan base of locals which frequent the shops as well.

Anyway, depending on how one looks at it geographically, it could have been either the first, middle or last shop in a series of similar ones operating along a portion of I-75 through south Georgia. The particular store that I visited, offered the gamut of local honey, nuts, produce, souvenirs and a decent variety of assorted goods. Although the merchandise inside the store was quite attractive, the bigger attraction, for me, was outside the store.

Off to one side and near the rear of the store, I spotted a donkey grazing contentedly on a small plot of land. Naturally, I wanted to befriend this interesting creature, so I tried hard not to disturb the donkey munching grass peacefully along a small stretch of fenceline. The need to be subtle was obvious in my approach. I walked up slowly and quietly, in as casual a manner as possible. As I stood observing the donkey from the other side of the fence, it had never occurred to me that a donkey’s diet is different from that of a cow or horse.

The hallmark of this difference lies in where a donkey originates from. Donkeys are from the extremely hot, dry, rugged conditions of Africa. They’re foragers that cover large distances, while slowly grazing on small amounts of food along the way. Donkeys need twigs, branches, brush and other forms of coarse, dry, nutrient-dense roughage. They need food to fill and fuel, but not very rich food to make them overly weighted and full.

You’d be wrong in assuming that a donkey’s diet is the same as that fed to horses or cattle. A donkey’s digestive system is different in both its physiology and its metabolism.

Donkeys need less protein and moisture in their diets than what is normally fed to horses. Unlike cows, goats or sheep, donkeys are not ruminants. They do not have the same complicated digestive system where their food is processed twice by means of a second stomach’s regurgitation process. Their natural diet includes dry grasses, leaves, stems, bark, thistles, blackberries, dry herbs and other forms of dry, fibrous plants. If a donkey is continuously fed a diet too rich in moisture and protein, it would likely suffer adverse effects to its health, by becoming obese, getting fatty liver disease & developing ailments of its hooves.

Properly fed and well-cared for domesticated donkeys, are provided plenty of clean drinking water, grass hay, barley straw & other quality dry clippings, as well as an equine salt lick. That’s really all that a healthy adult donkey needs for its daily dietary requirements.

Donkey munching grass at
Georgia Peach World
Georgia Peach World

Another friendly face