Donkeys – charming but not recognized

Donkeys have supported the development of humankind in a similarly positive manner as horses, by serving as reliable, robust, modest and cheap pack and draft animals. This might be the reason why in the German-speaking, Scandinavian and other parts of Europe, Santa Claus or Saint Nicolas chose a donkey to help him transport Christmas presents for the children. Donkeys are intelligent and simultaneously ethnic. Up until today, the latter has been misinterpreted as their being stupid and stubborn. In many places of the world, their significance in comparison to other equidae is low. For a few years now, donkeys have become increasingly popular as leisure time animals and have thus experienced a renaissance.


Frequent animal protection problems

When donkeys are used as working animals, overexertion or neglect occur frequently. When used for leisure time activities, donkeys often lack exercise, social contact with other donkeys, they suffer from insufficient care, or false nutrition. Overweight, deformed hips, parasite attacks or other serious diseases are the consequence and lead to suffering. Donkeys are often used as cheap companions for horses. This does not meet the social requirements of either donkeys or horses.


Donkeys under the Swiss Animal Protection Act

Donkeys are domestic animals and belong to the family of equidae. Amongst others, their holding and use are regulated in the general animal holding stipulations of the Swiss Animal Protection Ordinance (art. 2 – 14 Tschv). Article 21 of the Animal Protection Ordinance also describes prohibited actions and article 31 the requirements towards donkey holders.


A special paragraph (art. 59 – 63 TschV) is dedicated to equidae alone. Transportation as well as anesthesia prior to slaughtering are also regulated. Table 7 of addendum 1 of the Animal Protection Ordinance finally; lays down the minimum requirements towards the holding of donkeys in stables and exercise space.


[Translate to English:] Trotz Fortschritten ungenügend sind die neuen Bestimmungen auch im Fall der Esel. Zwar verbietet der Gesetzgeber die Anbindehaltung mit Übergangsfrist bis 2013, erlaubt aber weiterhin nur einen eingeschränkten “Sozialkontakt”. Demnach müssen Esel lediglich Sicht- Hör- und Geruchkontakt zu Artgenossen haben. Die allgemeine Vorschrift in Artikel 13 TSchV, wonach soziallebenden Arten angemessene Sozialkontakte zu ermöglichen sind, wird dadurch wertlos.



Esel-Stute mit Fohlen auf der Weide
© B. Trachsel

Focus on donkeys

  • SIGEF, the Swiss interest group of donkey friends, provides advice and information on the keeping and handling of donkeys.
  • DIGEM, the interest group of donkey and mule friends in Germany, promotes the species-appropriate housing of donkeys and provides aid with regard to the choice of a donkey or a mule.

Reading advice:

  • Esel halten, Marisa Hafner, Ulmer Eugen, 2005 ISBN-13: 9783800148851
  • Warum Esel so gescheit sind, Judith Schmidt Hrsg., Mariposa 2007, ISBN-13: 9783927708419
  • Das Eselbuch, H. + A. Fischer-Nagel, Kinderbuchverlag Luzern 2004, ISBN 3-276-00064-4