Donkeys are being used by some sheep and goat ranchers to protect their herds from coyotes, foxes and bobcats. Donkeys live with sheep and goat herds and chase off predators. They bray loudly, which alerts the smaller animals to the presence of danger. Ranchers can also hear the donkey bray if they are close enough and help drive off any predators. Once in a while they will attack a predator that gets too close to the herd, and can stomp them to death.
The donkeys are relatively affordable as they live by foraging on the land and are essentially self-sufficient. Naturally they have a dislike of predators and act without training as guardians of herds of sheep and goats, which accept the donkeys into their herds. They can work in the fields for about 10-15 years providing protection all day and night long. Sheepherders generally have to monitor their health and make sure they have regular access to water. Usually pasture lands provide them with enough food. The Texas Dept. of Agriculture says one donkey can tend to up to 200 sheep. Guard donkeys will also cooperate with other guard animals such as sheep dogs, and even llamas. (The use of llamas is depicted in the BBC video below).
Some people say donkeys have their own calm demeanor, which is different from horses. In a recent article about American Mammoth Jackstock Donkeys, it was reported that, “Unlike horses, the donkeys hardly ever spook. If Cadle and Gus (a breeder and her “watchdog” donkey) are out on a ride and he encounters a situation he’s uncomfortable with, he will stand there and determine how he feels about it before moving forward. He once jumped four feet so he wouldn’t have to touch a small puddle, but after that he was fine.”
In Australia, tens of millions of dollars in sheep losses to wild dogs have some sheep ranchers employing donkeys as guard animals, “Donkeys will actually live with the sheep, they’ll feed with them and camp with them and when a dog turns up, they will actually go out of the mob of sheep and they will chase them, they will try and stomp them and bite them.”
Guard donkeys would not be effective against larger predators like wolves or bears, because they would be prey for those large carnivores.
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