Looking to spice things up on your next hiking trip? Bringing a donkey along as your hiking companion just might be what you need.
Okay, we know what you’re thinking: A donkey, really? Is a donkey actually a good partner for my back-country adventures?
Absolutely. Donkeys are smart, loyal, hard-working animals that make for superb companions on the trail. What’s more, donkeys are among the best pack animals on the planet. That means that they can keep you company and carry your gear on the trail. What could be better?
We know that donkeys might not be the most conventional hiking partner, so we put together a list of 7 reasons why you should bring one of these lovable equines with you on the trail. Let’s get to it.
1. Donkeys Are Top-Notch Pack Animals
Fact: No one likes carrying a heavy pack. Thankfully, a donkey can carry most of your pack weight for you.
Donkeys have long been considered to be some of the world’s best pack animals. That’s because they can carry an extraordinary amount of weight despite their relatively small size.
Depending on the size of the donkey, you can reasonably expect them to carry at least 90 lbs (40 kg) in weight. For longer trips, you might want to keep your burro’s load a little lower to reduce their risk of injury.
Either way, a donkey can make carrying all the gear on your camping checklist during a long thru-hike a much more pleasant experience.
2. Donkeys Are Excellent In Tricky Terrain
Due to their smaller size and nimble hoof work, donkeys tend to do very well in steep terrain. While horses are known to have difficulty in rocky locales, donkeys take these challenges in stride.
Plus, since donkeys have been domesticated for millennia to be pack animals, they can often carry heavy loads and walk along steep trails without the bat of an eye.
If you do see your donkey stop in its tracks and refuse to move forward, then you can take that as a warning sign that you should probably find another route. Most donkeys are sure and sharp in dangerous terrain so they won’t move forward if they think something is too risky. Think of them as an additional decision-maker on the trail when the route looks a little sketchy.
3. Donkeys Are Relatively Low-Maintenance
All animals require a large amount of care, and donkeys are no exception. Anyone looking to take a donkey on a hiking trip needs to be prepared to care for it day in and day out. This includes ensuring that your burro gets enough food, water, shade, and rest each day so that they stay healthy and strong during your trek.
Nevertheless, when compared to other pack animals, caring for a donkey is a relative walk in the park.
For example, a donkey’s hooves tend to be a bit more rugged than those of a horse. You’ll still need to clean your donkey’s hooves regularly. But you’re less likely to run into foot issues with a burro than with a larger equine.
Oh, and donkeys are some of the least picky eaters in the animal kingdom. They’ll happily browse all day if you let them and you’ll rarely hear them complain about a lack of tasty grass. Keep in mind that donkeys in some parts of the world are accustomed to eating hay. But others will be content and self-sufficient if left out to graze for a few hours.
4. Donkeys Are Easy to Transport
Okay, donkeys, like any animal, aren’t as easy to transport as, say, a human hiking partner. But in the wider world of pack animals, it’s hard to beat the humble donkey when it comes to transportation.
Since donkeys are among the smallest pack animals in the world, they’re easy enough to transport in a small livestock trailer. As a result, it’s easier to transport a donkey-sized trailer up a narrow, windy road than it would be to transport a horse-sized trailer. This means that you have a much wider range of potential adventure destinations when you hike with a donkey.
5. Donkeys Are More Affordable
While your standard pack-horse might not fetch the hefty sums that are traded for ownership of a prized racehorse, there’s no denying that horses are pricey animals. Donkeys, on the other hand, are substantially cheaper to buy.
In some parts of the world, donkeys can be bought for just a few hundred dollars. But, you should expect to pay upwards of a few thousand dollars for a larger, well-trained donkey. Once you’ve acquired a donkey, taking care of it is often much more affordable than taking care of a horse. That’s because burros eat less and often have fewer health problems than horses.
Even if you’re not interested in purchasing a donkey, you can still save money by opting for a donkey instead of a horse on your next camping trip. Fees vary from place to place, of course, but donkey rentals for trekking are normally just a fraction of what you’d pay for a horse.
6. Donkeys Don’t Startle As Easily
Horses are truly amazing animals that also make for great companions while hiking. The downside to hiking with a horse, however, is that horses are very easily startled.
Loud noises, such as rockfall or even an unexpected hiker on the trail can cause even the best-trained horse to lose its cool without warning. This can lead to a dangerous situation for you, the horse, and everyone else in the vicinity—not ideal if you’re miles into the back-country.
Donkeys, though, are known for their stoic, no-nonsense approach to life as a beast of burden. Even though each donkey has its unique personality, you’ll rarely see them worried or startled when loud noises are afoot. This makes them a low-stress companion to have with you on a hike, especially in more remote terrain.
7. Donkeys Are Playful & Friendly
Although every donkey is different, most burros are playful, social animals that like to spend time around humans. Donkeys are known for forming strong bonds with both each other and with their human companions.
Because donkeys are so social, they’re particularly great animals to have in a group. This means that you can easily take two, three, or even four donkeys with you when you hit the trail. Doing so greatly expands the types of trips you can take and opens up a world of more remote expeditions.
Donkeys: The Ultimate Trekking Companion
Whether you’re new to hiking with a pack animal or you’re simply looking for company on your travels, a donkey is a companion you need on your expeditions. Day hikes, thru-hikes, and overnight camping trips are no match for these playful, yet hard-working animals.
Always keep in mind that hiking with a donkey means double the responsibility. When you bring an animal with you into the mountains, you need to be prepared to care for it at all times. You also need to check local regulations to ensure that donkeys are allowed at your hiking destination.
At the end of the day, hiking with a donkey just might be one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. Donkeys provide companionship, a hard-working attitude, and a way to lighten your pack. What more could you ask for?