Study Says Donkeys Need More Warmth Than Horses in the Winter

Posted by Allie Layos

A new study by scientists at the Universities of Portsmouth and Canterbury Christ Church claim that when it comes to staying warm in the winter, horses have donkeys beat.

The study was funded by the Donkey Sanctuary and published in the Equine Veterinary Journal. Dr. Leanne Proops, animal behavior and cognition specialist in the University of Portsmouth's Department of Psychology, helped author the paper.

Donkey in snow

Proops said:

"The common perception is donkeys are hardy and capable of enduring challenging environments. While it's true they're highly adapted to the harsh, semi-arid environments, it would be wrong to assume this hardiness allows them to thrive under all conditions."

According to, the study examined the insulation properties of hair samples, taking into account weight, length, and thickness. These samples showed that donkeys' coats do not change significantly between seasons. Their winter coats were much lighter, shorter, and thinner than that of the horses and even mules that were studied.

Proops concluded:

"Our results showed that unlike horses, donkeys are not able to adjust their hair coat weight, hair length and width in response to colder, winter weather, which suggests donkeys need welfare guidelines separate to those for horses."

Because of this, the study recommends donkeys be provided manmade protection from wind and rain. The researchers believe extra help should be considered for mules during the winter months as well.

Donkeys in corral

Dr. Faith Burden from the Donkey Sanctuary said:

"For many years it has been the 'common sense' advice given by The Donkey Sanctuary to ensure that donkeys and mules are given the right protection from our cold winters. This study now provides us with scientific evidence to show why the welfare needs of donkeys and mules differ slightly to those of horses and ponies, and how we can act to give them better protection from the elements."

Further publications from the project are planned for the future, looking at heat loss in horses and donkeys and how they respond to different types of weather conditions.

How do you keep your donkeys warm during the winter? Share your tips below.

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Study Says Donkeys Need More Warmth Than Horses in the Winter