Life of a donkey

Donkey Sanctuary

Donkeys are the most misunderstood and abused animals around the world.

  Bonnie Jo Campbell

Last summer I visited The Donkey Sanctuary farm in Liscarroll, Co Cork. The farm is a home for 127 donkeys ( the number might have changed), but the Sanctuary has over 1800 donkeys in their care, about 500 of them re-homed. How did it happen that so many donkeys had to be rescued? Sadly, in order to claim agricultural subsidies many farmers use donkeys as a low-cost means of reaching the minimum stocking density required. The cost of castrating the young males is far higher than their value, and the donkeys that are left to fend for themselves in the fields would breed all the year round. Also, if a donkey gets sick it is often cheaper to buy a new donkey than to take it to the vet. On Done Deal website you can get a donkey for as little as €50, and often “to a Good Home free”. All of this contributes to the high numbers of neglected and abandoned donkeys nationally.


I came to the sanctuary on my way to Killarney and had less than an hour to look around and enjoy the company of sweet donkeys. I have always had a soft spot for goats and donkeys.

There is a cute picnic area in the farm, and everything is tidy and homey.

Donkey Sanctuary

In this building you can buy some donkey-related souvenirs and make a donation. You can adopt a donkey for a donation of €25 a year.

Donkey Sanctuary

After I made a donation, Margaret and I had a lively conversation about the Sanctuary. There are three more donkey farms in Ireland, she said, but only this one is open for visitors. They are not a breeding farm, but sometimes they get a pregnant female. No baby donkey this time though.

This cat deserves a picture. His eyes were permanently wide-opened which has probably something to do with his busy schedule as the mouse hunter in the farm.

Over the years, I have taken many donkey pictures. I often make them black and white to express the sadness I feel about the life of a donkey.





I have seen them careless and playful too.


Daddy, mommy and a little photo-bomber in background.


With his mommy a couple of months later.


Some facts about donkeys:

There are five main breeds and cross-breeds of donkey in Ireland: Grand Noir du Berry ( black donkey);  hinny, the offspring of female donkey and a male horse; mule; miniature donkey, and a shaggy Poitou donkey.

Donkeys can live up to 50 years. They are social animals and it is not good to keep a donkey as a lone animal. Donkeys are stoical by nature and won’t show that they are in pain. Proverbial stubbornness of the donkey can indicate that the animal is simply afraid. Being safe is important for donkeys.


The Donkey Sanctuary was founded in 1972. Many things have changed since, and many donkeys have crossed the Rainbow Bridge, but there is a 40 years old donkey still living in the farm. The average age of the other donkeys is 10 years, which is an indication of an economic downturn in Ireland a decade ago.

Katie is a volunteer from The Netherlands. She is a donkey whisperer 🙂 Katie explained me the ‘mystery’ of the yellow and red collars: red means a boy and yellow a girl. And there are the names written on the collars!

Donkey Sanctuary



Donkey Sanctuary


I found a video on YouTube, Castletown Donkey Derby, 1994. It is fun but still I am sorry for the donkeys.


When a donkey brays, the other donkeys listen.

Donkey Sanctuary

Jason the donkey brays his heart out, and I am delighted to hear his performance.

Donkey Sanctuary

A humble man’s helper, donkey costs almost nothing to keep. A little bit of care is all he needs – hoof trimming, shelter, access to water. Civilization has used the poor donkey badly, and as if it is not enough, donkey’s meat and hide are the subject of trade in some countries.

I wish we lived in an ideal world where nobody is hungry, cold and lonely, and the ability to hurt others is erased from human genome.


Thank you for reading! Have a great week!


  1. Beautiful and informative post, Inese. I also wish “we lived in an ideal world where nobody is hungry, cold and lonely, and ability to hurt others is erased from human genome.”

  2. Thanks for this post, Inese—I can see by the comments that your photos have touched the hearts of some who may have never been around these wonderful creatures who are so often misunderstood.

    1. Thank you. Donkeys need so little. If people don’t care after their donkey, how can you expect them to care after somebody more demanding, like each other, for instance.

  3. The donkey is a very wonderful animal. I do feel sorry for them, and for all animals that man abuses. Man can be very cruel, and blind. Becoming vegetarian, almost vegan (A couple of cheeses from small kind farms, for my bones) was the best move I made in my life for my body, mind and soul.
    Thank you for this post.

      1. Thanks for your timeless post. I felt I had to share your important post. Animals cannot speak for themselves. They depend on kind, caring compassionate humans to fight for their cause. God bless you. Grace, Peace and Blessings to you.

        1. Of course He did. There is no word in the scriptures that it is ok to abuse animals. Good shepherd will walk around all night to find a lost lamb.

  4. I never knew much (anything) about donkeys, Inese. So thanks. I don’t see many over here in New Zealand – friends had several – and they were always lent out to the Anglican church at Christmas. I thought they were quite expensive creatures – like a horse… maybe here they are??

    1. Thank you Bruce. I typed ‘donkey’ in our local classifieds web page just to get some facts for this post, and was surprised to learn that 50 euros is an average price. They asked 400 for one, but I guess it was some special breed. Some sellers just gave them away for free.

  5. Useful animals too, so sad they are just place holders for government bucks. Much better foragers in the back country than horses whose diets are picky. They can carry a ton, and will fit in the back of a pickup if you have appropriate railing. A horse can’t do that.

    1. Yes, that’s true. Their diet is simple, and they can carry a ton indeed. Besides, they are so very cute. But some people just have no heart.

  6. Thanks for opening our eyes to the life of a donkey in Ireland, Inese, and especially for outlining the reasons for strays. Your empathy for them is much appreciated, and it was good to see the dedication at the Donkey Sanctuary. Lovely post.

    1. Thank you so much, Jet. I am so sorry that your state has been struck by tragedies this past year. There must be hundreds of pets and farm animals gone missing.

      1. Our house was in the middle of it all, and we lost a lot too. Today is our 4-month anniversary of the firestorms, and we are still refugees, and not one repair has been made yet. We have hopes for some movement soon. As for the wild birds and mammals on our property, we continue to put down fresh bird seed and water when we go up every two weeks, and they are coming back little by little. I am amazed, actually, at how resilient many of the wild animals have been. May we all have resiliency.

        1. Hope your place gets fixed soon, but of course there are the roads, water and electricity supply that have to be restored. Huge amount of work.
          Yes, resilience is a valuable skill. So many people are misplaced, property lost, kids have to attend school somehow… It is easy to lose it. Hope this year brings good changes,

  7. I like donkeys. I visit the ones on a nearby farm with a cafe when I can. I enjoyed this. All of it great, the b&w pics immense.

    1. Thank you so much, Andrea. I have seen many examples of cruelty towards animals, and I am sorry for those who are not afraid to lift their hand against an innocent creature.

    1. Thank you Derrick. I love to see them in your pictures. You live in such a beautiful place where both animals and humans live side by side and enjoy their days.

  8. This is a new one, they eat donkeys meat? I have no idea how it taste but… I won’t go furthere with my ramblings since I know you’re gonna get mad, point being….. I look myself like the damn donkey! foolish donkey me

    1. It is what I read in the news. There is a superstition that their meat and hide have some healing properties too. I have read a good few articles on this subject. People eat just everything.
      Hope you are good. Hang in there, don’t get in trouble.

      1. Trying not get in trouble, but the court date will come when you least expect it, so what i have figured is to eat that crazy meat since it has proteins wich I need.

          1. Not the same one, there are several courts, i just got busted stealing from a supermarket, they’ll just make me pay a fine wich I can’t afford and if you can afford it you go to jail.

  9. That is a touching article on donkeys, Inese. It is interesting I had never read so much about the poor species that has been exploited, and shall I say slighted too, to the hilt by humans. It is appalling to learn it is cheaper to buy a new donkey than take one to a vet. May God bless the patrons of The Donkey Sanctuary.

    PS: It is thought provoking that when a donkey brays, the other donkeys listen!

    1. Thank you so much for your comment! I think there is a saying that if a donkey brays at you don’t bray back. I was very amused watching these donkeys, the way they listened with such reverence and never interrupted a solo performer.

  10. I like donkeys too, Inese. They are kind and caring animals, when they find out, that you are good enough to them.
    Beautiful photos and nice to see, that there are people working for them too.

  11. That’s so sad. Who could abuse one of these guys? We have 3 on our farm, and they are not just to protect the cattle. They’re like pets to us. Love my guys. 😊

    1. Sorry for the late reply. Your farm is a safe place to all I guess. I have seen badly mistreated horses and mules. People often find dead horses left to rot at the road side. The law is helpless here.

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