How Long Do Donkeys Live? (in Captivity/Wild, Health Issues)

How Long Do Donkeys Live

Donkeys, also known as asses, are some of the most well-known and well-bred animals in the world. But just how much do you know about these animals? Read on to find out more about donkeys, including how long they live.

The average lifespan of a donkey varies depending on whether it’s living in captivity or the wild – in the wild, a donkey has a life span of 25-30 years, whereas, in captivity, they can live to be 40-50 years old. Living conditions can also affect a donkey’s life expectancy.

How Long Do Donkeys Live in Captivity?

Donkeys that live in captivity often have easier lives than their counterparts in the wild – though this is not always the case, as donkeys are commonly used for work and may not be treated well. Working donkeys in underdeveloped countries have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years. On average, they have a life expectancy of 40-50 years.

How Long Do Donkeys Live in the Wild?

Donkeys in the wild generally do not live as long as their domesticated counterparts. This is because, unlike domesticated donkeys, they face predators, food shortages, and unfavorable weather without shelter. On average donkeys in the wild live 25 to 30 years.

What Illnesses Can Donkeys Get?

Some common health problems that donkeys face include:


Colic refers to abdominal pain rather than a specific condition. Various types of colic may manifest differently, and they are often assessed based on history, gut sounds, pain, respiratory rate, heart rate, and other clinical exam findings. Common causes of colic include worms (tapeworms or roundworms), muscle cramps, blockages with partially digested food, and twisted guts.


Hyperlipaemia is a condition that commonly occurs in donkeys as a result of excessive fat in the blood. If left untreated, hyperlipaemia can lead to kidney and liver degeneration and failure. This condition can have subtle symptoms at first, including behavior changes such as decreased appetite and dullness. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to your donkey’s behavior and alert a vet as early as possible if you notice any abnormal signs.


Donkeys can become susceptible to arthritis as they get older. Arthritis can also be brought about by injury, malnutrition, infection, and a lack of space to move about. Symptoms include limited motion, weight loss, swollen joints, an altered gait, and a shabby coat.


This is a common condition that affects the sensitive and insensitive tissues that support the pedal bone found in the foot. When blood ceases to flow to these tissues, they become inflamed, resulting in this painful condition that can be debilitating and sometimes even fatal. Causes include excess weight, trauma, and a sudden change in diet.


Also known as rain scald, this is a common skin condition that is caused by the spore-forming bacterium Dermatophilus congolensis. It occurs in wet and muddy environments and is spread by carrier animals.

What Should You Not Feed Donkeys?

Some of the food items that you should avoid feeding to donkeys include:

  • Anything from the nightshade family (potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, aubergine)
  • Brassicas (brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli)
  • Anything from the allium family (leeks, garlic, onions)
  • Cod liver oil or any other oils of animal origin. Steer clear of dairy or meat products as well – animal protein can be fatal to donkeys.
  • Human food like chocolate, cakes, sugary biscuits, bread, and breakfast cereals.
  • Lick-it style hanging treats – these contain a high concentration of sugars, plus donkeys can bite off huge chunks that can cause choking and even colic.
  • Silage – this is not suitable for feeding to donkeys because its moisture level is too high, plus it has low fiber content.
  • Grass clippings – eating grass clippings can cause colic in donkeys, and if the grass begins to ferment, it can result in a lethal build-up of gases within the gut.
  • Moldy products should be avoided due to possible mycotoxins.

How Do You Keep a Donkey Healthy?

To provide the ideal standards of welfare for your donkeys and to keep them healthy, make sure you provide the following:

  • 24-hour access to clean water and shelter.
  • A high fiber, low sugar diet. If there is a lot of rich grass, make sure you restrict their grazing.
  • A safe and clean environment that is free of hazards.
  • Companionship – donkeys are herd animals that prefer to be in company.
  • Illness prevention measures such as wound treatment, deworming, and correct feeding.
  • Annual dental care to ensure that they eat properly and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Daily handling and training is important so that donkeys can build trust in their owner.
  • Regular feet care – donkeys’ hooves can get long or misshapen if not taken care of, leading to serious, painful health conditions.

Can Donkeys Die of Loneliness?

Donkeys are surprisingly affectionate animals. They are not well-suited to living alone, and will quickly get lonely without any companions. They form incredibly strong bonds with fellow donkeys, and when a companion dies, they mourn them. The stress of their grief can induce hyperlipaemia in donkeys which can be fatal in extreme cases.

Do Donkeys Feel Sad?

Donkeys can become sad and depressed especially if they lose a companion or become sick. When they feel sad, they can exhibit behavioral issues and even stop eating.

Can Donkeys Live with Horses?

Can Donkeys Live with Horses

Donkeys and horses can not only live together, but they can also form close bonds with one another. Show horses and racehorses have been known to befriend miniature donkeys that live with them in their stalls. Donkeys also make for great pasture mates for horses.

In some cases, donkeys can even help to guard a herd of horses – due to their well-documented nature to stand their ground when threatened, they can be quite effective in scaring predators. Donkeys can also make great companions for lonely horses or horses that recently lost a close companion.

That said, it’s worth noting that donkeys are different from horses in many ways, with a distinctive nature and specific health requirements. You should take into account all these factors before keeping a donkey and horse together.

Can Goats and Donkeys Live Together?

Donkeys and goats can potentially live harmoniously on the same pasture, but they will need careful introduction and early supervision to ensure that they get along. Some donkeys can get territorial, which could either translate into herd-protective behavior or dangerously hostile behavior.

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