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Donkey Week – May 2-9, 2023

Donkey Week takes place from May 2 to 9 this year. It celebrates the amazing lives of donkeys and how they’ve been beneficial to us as humans all through time. Donkey Week, which began in 1983, has been honored by numerous donkey enthusiasts and keepers, as well as others with a general interest in animal welfare. One of the most exciting aspects of the event is generally a visit to a donkey farm.

History of Donkey Week

Donkeys have been around for a long time and have had a relationship with human beings for almost as long as they’ve been in existence. They were first domesticated in North Africa sometime around 6,000 years ago, at the time they were reared for their milk and meat. By about 4,000 years after they were first domesticated, they had become regular work animals used by humans, particularly for transporting goods, supplies, and the like.

Donkeys were among the draught animals used to transport silk across the Pacific Ocean and to the Mediterranean in exchange for trade goods. Donkeys were rather durable as they would constantly be used to pull heavy loads across thousands of miles on journeys lasting several years. However, durable as they were, it was impossible for any of these animals to complete these journeys, and this led to sporadic and unplanned mating along the journeys, thus being responsible for the variety of donkey breeds in existence today.

Donkeys were used in agriculture and as pack animals and were particularly popular for this among the Romans who used donkeys in their new vineyards. The culture of the use of donkeys for cultivation in vineyards extended from Mediterranean countries, all the way to Spain, whose Southern coast is only miles from North Africa.

Donkey Week timeline

4000 B.C.
The First Domestication of Donkeys

Donkeys are first domesticated in North Africa and Egypt.

1969
The Donkey Sanctuary

The Donkey Sanctuary is established in Sidmouth, Devon, England.

1983
Donkey Week

The first-ever Donkey Week takes place.

2003
The 20th Anniversary

The annual Donkey Week celebrations commemorate its 20th anniversary.

Donkey Week FAQs

Why would a farmer have a donkey?

They have long been employed as pack animals and for draft work in agriculture and other fields, but some people believe that the donkey’s intelligence and attentiveness make them perfect as pasture pets, livestock guardians, and sometimes, as horse companions.

Are donkeys and horses the same?

Not entirely, no. They are both useful for work and transportation, but donkeys are more durable and better suited for work.

Why do donkeys have large ears?

Donkeys’ large ears help them to stay cool by dispelling heat from the surface of their bodies.

Donkey Week Activities

  1. Visit the Donkey Sanctuary

    If you’re a true donkey lover, or any animal lover for that matter, travel down to Sidmouth. Here, you can visit the Donkey Sanctuary for a few days.

  2. Donate to the Donkey Sanctuary

    Well, maybe you can’t visit the Donkey Sanctuary, but you can donate to the sanctuary. Show your love to donkeys by donating to their continued welfare.

  3. Post on social media

    Whether you’re visiting, donating, or whatever else, be sure to post on social media. Use the #DonkeyWeek hashtag to join the conversation online.

5 Surprising Facts About Donkeys

  1. Millions of donkeys worldwide

    There are over 50 million donkeys in the world.

  2. Donkeys may be nearing extinction

    Despite the number of donkeys in the world, extinction might be a threat as there are a large number of in-bred donkeys.

  3. Donkeys once shared ancestry with horses

    For many years, donkeys and horses shared ancestry, however, thousands of years ago, cross-breeding distinguished donkeys completely from horses.

  4. Donkeys were initially bred for their milk

    When donkeys were first domesticated, they were initially bred for their milk and meat, and not for labor.

  5. Donkeys participated in World War I

    With many horses killed in battle during the First World War, it was up to donkeys to perform some duties of war horses.

Why We Love Donkey Week

  1. They’re versatile

    Donkeys are versatile animals and can have many uses, including giving young children rides, for driving and showing, light draught work, a companion animal, or simply as pets. They are also useful for work and transportation in rural areas.

  2. Donkeys are durable

    Donkeys have been described as “all terrain” animals, meaning that they are more durable than most other animals. They can be used on terrain where wheeled vehicles would encounter difficulty.

  3. They sustain livelihoods

    In some areas, donkeys help to sustain the livelihood of locals. They play a critical role in providing transport, food security, and income generation to some of the poorest communities.

Donkey Week dates

YearDateDay
2022May 3Tuesday
2023May 2Tuesday
2024May 7Tuesday
2025May 6Tuesday
2026May 5Tuesday

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