Over ten years ago we added to the Horizon animal family with the first of two donkeys. Poncho was the first addition and soon after we added Lefty. Both donkeys were born in the wild but were captured when they were young. They’re quite tame and love being fed with carrots by the guests.
They look so much alike that while we can’t be certain we’re pretty sure they’re twins! They’re inseparable and you’ll often find them grazing the pastures together at Horizon Guest House, with our horse Sunny not far behind. Sometimes Clem will let Poncho, Lefty and Sunny graze in the upper part of the garden where they like to come visit, keeping us company as we garden.
Donkeys don’t need to be shoed like horses. Donkeys tend to have tougher hooves. This is most likely because of their wild ancestor, the African Wild Ass, that evolved in dry, mountainous environments. Studies have shown that walking causes less internal stress to the hoof of the donkey than it does to that of horses. Though this doesn’t stop Poncho and Lefty from coming to hang out with Sunny when she gets her new shoes.
Did you know? Donkeys are smart. Not only is a donkey stronger than a horse of a smilier size, but donkeys have an amazing memory – they can recognise environments, as well as other donkeys, from more than twenty years prior. And just in case you thought donkeys looked less than alert, they’ve been shown to be safety conscious too – tests have proven a donkey will not do something it thinks is unsafe. Although, there was that time that Poncho and Lefty… wait – never mind. After all it wasn’t Poncho and Lefty who ended up in the swimming pool like Buck did…
Donkeys don’t like dogs so much and this might be an evolutionary hangover. It’s been suggested that to a donkey a dog resembles a wolf and therefore remains a threat. Donkeys will often protect the herd from anything it considers to be dangerous, whether that herd includes other donkeys, horses, sheep or goats.
Origins of donkeys on the Big Island of Hawaii
Originally brought to Hawaii as work animals on coffee farms and agricultural plantations, their population soon increased and wild donkeys were, until relatively recently, a common sight.
Wandering over the Big Island unchecked for almost the last 40 years, it was only in 2016 that the Humane Society had a big drive to place the remainder of these donkeys into safe, happy homes, either here on the Big Island or even on the mainland. Wild donkeys can be challenging to train so it was a requirement that all those that adopted donkeys could provide ample space and social contact for the animal.
And the key requirement of adopting a donkey? You’ve got to have two! Donkeys are incredibly social animals, so if they can’t have another donkey to keep them company then another animal is a must.
Make time during your stay to visit with our farm animals – they love the company, a scratch under the chin and a friendly pat, and of course a vegetable snack! We always have something on hand to feed them, just ask Clem and he’ll be happy to introduce you to BFFs Poncho and Lefty as well as Horizon’s other domesticated residents.
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