What do donkeys eat?

What do donkeys eat?

Donkeys are animals that are related to horses and zebras, so they also belong to the Equidae family. Over time there have been taxonomic controversies regarding the scientific name, but now there is a certain consensus and it is established that the African wild ass ( Equus africanus ) gave rise to the domesticated form that we know as donkey ( Equus africanus asinus ), considering this a subspecies.

What do donkeys eat?

Type of feeding donkeys

Donkeys, like all equines, are strictly herbivorous animals . Their digestive system is adapted to efficiently break down the fibrous material that makes up the vegetation on which they feed. In this way, thanks to the fact that fermentation occurs in its posterior intestine and the presence of microorganisms that also inhabit other parts of the digestive system, the donkey can carry out a very efficient digestive process even if it consumes low-quality or low-nutritious vegetation. Thus, it relies on an intestinal microbiota that helps it to be properly nourished.

But the efficiency of donkeys to carry a herbivorous diet is not only due to their digestive system, they also have specialized teeth to be able to take root plants. Then, they use their blunt-shaped molars to crush and grind, so the food is previously processed before it reaches the stomach, which increases the efficiency of the process.

The feeding behavior of donkeys is characterized by spending a good part of the day feeding . However, this group generally consumes less feed than, for example, horses. Donkeys like to eat little feed, but at various times of the day.


Donkeys are mammalian animals , so that, at birth, the primary food is mother’s milk , which is essential for their healthy growth. Shortly after birth, the little ones already stand up and begin to nurse from their mother. An interesting aspect is that, since these animals are domesticated, donkeys establish strong ties with their mothers and if they are not previously separated from them, they can stay together for life, something that does not happen with wild donkeys in nature, as they become They become independent after weaning to form their own families.

Baby donkeys feed on their mother’s milk until they are 12-14 months , when they are weaned. However, when they are allowed to be in open spaces with the presence of vegetation to feed, they begin to eat solid foods much sooner. In addition, farmers can also supply commercial feeds, then taking mixed feeds for a while.

What do donkeys eat? - What do baby donkeys eat?

What do adult donkeys eat?

Depending on the region, the availability of vegetation may vary depending on the time of year. Also, food sources can change based on what is provided by those who manage the farms. In this way, adult donkeys can eat a series of plants that offer the necessary nutrients for the animal, such as carbohydrates, proteins, fats and vitamins. The foods that adult donkeys can eat are the following:

  • Barley or wheat straw.
  • Hay or dry fodder.
  • legumes.
  • Alfalfa, oats, wheat and barley.
  • grasses.
  • herbs.
  • Salt supplements.

Donkeys can also be fed with certain foods and supplements sold in stores or businesses for animals of this type, which may be important in areas where there is not an abundance of vegetation or crops on which these animals feed. Of course, it is essential that these commercial foods are of quality to guarantee good health. Another important aspect is the availability of fresh and clean water , which must always be available to these animals.


Fruits and vegetables that donkeys eat

As a reward , certain fruits and vegetables may be offered, such as apples, bananas, and carrots . However, they should not constitute their diet because they are not the foods that these animals use for nutrition. Thus, the important thing is not to exceed the offer of these foods.

In the same way, it is not advisable to give a lot of barley, wheat or oats. They can eat these foods, but in moderation.

What do donkeys eat? - What do adult donkeys eat?

There is no exact amount of food that a donkey eats per day. Depending on the region where donkeys are raised, they can be extremely heavy animals and therefore eat more or less food.

For example, it is common to use them for cargo work in economically depressed places, so the power offered to them is very low. In addition to the fact that they are forced to work long hours, unfortunately the quality of life of these animals is low. However, those that are kept in spaces where forage abounds thanks to the temperate climate, have a lot of food available and can even become overweight. Neither of the two cases are healthy for these animals, so it would be important to take care of them and follow the recommendations of a veterinarian specialized in equines. No animal deserves to be exploited, much less in such unfavorable conditions.


  • Pagan, R. (2022). Horse ass . Animal Diversity Web. Available at:
  • Moehlman, P.D.; Kebede, F.; Yohannes, H. (2015). Equus africanus . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2015. Available at:

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