How Much Weight Can A Donkey Carry?

Donkeys are stronger and more surefooted than horses, and they are much more dependable in challenging situations. Maybe that’s why they have been well known as “beasts of burden” throughout human history. Even today, all around the world donkeys are an important mode of transportation and way of carrying goods from one place to another. Read on to learn more on how much weight can a donkey carry.

Why Are Donkeys So Well Suited As Pack Animals?

Why Are Donkeys So Well Suited As Pack Animals

Smart, reliable donkeys are safety conscious. This is a trait that is often mistaken for stubbornness, but a smart rider or packer understands that when a donkey refuses to do something, it probably has a good reason.

Unlike horses, when donkeys are faced with challenging or frightening situations they tend to stop, study and think the matter through. This quality makes them a good partner on the trail.

How Much Weight Can Donkeys Safely Carry?

In addition to their superior intelligence, donkeys are also quite a bit stronger than horses. A donkey in good condition can carry between 20% and 25% of its body weight. It’s important to understand that the load must be correctly balanced and well secured.

So how much do donkeys weigh and how much can they carry? There are three sizes of donkeys: miniature, standard and mammoth – each with different average weight.

1. Miniature Donkeys

Miniature donkeys typically weigh about 400 pounds, so could potentially carry a load of up to 100 pounds; although, a load of that size would probably be ill advised for miniature as they only stand about 3 feet (9 hands) high or less.

This means that a miniature donkey could carry a light pack or a very small rider. A well trained mini could be a good mount for a child.

2. Standard Donkeys

Standard donkeys typically stand about 11 hands high (44 inches) and weigh about 500 pounds. Therefore a standard donkey could potentially carry as much as 125 pounds.

A standard donkey is a good mount for a small to medium-sized woman or small man and a good pack animal for a medium to large sized load.

3. Mammoth Donkeys

Mammoth donkeys stand about 14 hands high (56 inches) and weigh about 950 to 1000 pounds. A mammoth donkey in good condition could carry as much as 250 pounds.

A mammoth donkey is a good mount for an average to large man or woman. These donkeys can also carry large loads if packed and balanced correctly.

Pack With Care!

It’s important to understand that just because a donkey could potentially carry a heavy load, it is not necessary or advisable to fully burden the animal. The donkeys in the video below are overloaded.

Notice that the packs being put on the donkey in this video are not too heavy for a slim woman to lift and handle, though they would be too heavy for her to carry on her own for a hike in the mountains.

Donkeys Carry Loads In The Mountains Of India

The Weight Of The Donkey Is Not The Only Consideration!

When determining how much weight a donkey can carry, the animal’s weight is only one factor. There are a number of other considerations you must take into account.

  1. Level of maturity is a very important consideration. A donkey is not fully mature until it is three or four years old. It is very unwise to begin heavy training of any kind until your donkey reaches a minimum age of three. Keep your donkey’s load light until he is well past the age of four.
  2. A donkey in poor health will naturally not be able to carry as much as a healthy donkey. Donkeys that have been neglected or abused should be allowed to rest and recover before being asked to carry any load. Are they strong enough yet? Do their hooves need trimming?
  3. Out of shape donkeys cannot carry as much as fit donkeys. If your donkey has been out to pasture or kept up in a stall for a period of time without exercising, you’ll need to get him in shape before doing any serious packing or riding.
  4. How hard is the trail you plan to travel? You have to factor in the ruggedness of the terrain, access to water and the weather conditions when you are deciding how much to ask your donkey to carry. A rough and challenging trail will naturally put limits on the weight a donkey can comfortably or safely handle.

Donkey Packing

Generally speaking, it’s a good idea to travel as light as you can. When packing your donkey, think about it as if you are packing your own backpack to carry along a trail you plan to hike. Don’t bring along unnecessary items.

Choose The Right Size Donkey To Suit The Rider

In terms of riding, be considerate. Keep yourself fit and don’t overburden your animal or yourself with excessive weight, and be sure to instill this consideration in your children.

If you have a child who is currently enjoying riding a miniature or a standard donkey, prepare both the rider and the mount for the inevitable time when the rider outgrows the donkey.

You can do this by making sure that your child understands how important it is not to overburden the donkey and by training the donkey for packing and/or driving so that there will still be plenty of activities your child and his or her favorite donkey can enjoy together.

Examples Of Donkeys Work Throughout History

  • Ancient Egyptians used donkeys to carry loads of precious metals from Africa into Egypt.
  • Donkeys carried bolts of silk on the famous trade route, the Silk Road, which ran from the Mediterranean to the Pacific Ocean.
  • In ancient Rome, donkeys were used on farms, in vineyards and in the military.
  • Donkeys carried heavy loads of grapes along narrow paths in the vineyards of Spain and Greece.
  • Today, donkeys are still in use in many areas to plow land, carry goods to market, hall water and collect wood for fuel.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Why would donkeys carrying gold during the gold rush carry less weight (100 lbs.) than recommended for modern day donkey?

The answer may lie in the size of the donkeys used. Perhaps the burros used then were smaller than today’s standard donkeys. It may also be that the animals were not as well-cared for as today’s mostly pet donkeys. Additionally, donkeys carrying gold were putting in full days’ work on a regular, ongoing basis, and they were working at varying altitudes. This is taxing because oxygen levels vary.

2. Is a donkey the best pack animal?

In many ways, a donkey may be considered the best pack animal. Donkeys are easy care. They carry a great deal of weight in comparison to their size. They are smart and actually quite amiable and engaging (as opposed to stubborn). They make excellent backyard or small homestead pets and can be used for walks and rides and holiday manger scenes when not hiking.

3. Why do people think donkeys are stubborn?

Donkeys are smart, and they are opinionated. You cannot force a donkey to do anything it doesn’t want to do, and a donkey will not do something stupid or dangerous. Whereas horses are flight animals and will simply flee a dangerous situation, a donkey is more likely to move a short distance away, stop and observe in an attempt to understand the situation. Whereas a horse may run itself to death in response to urgings from a rider, a donkey will not. When a donkey has had enough, it will stop. This sort of behavior is often interpreted as stubbornness, but it is actually intelligence and self preservation.

4. Why are donkeys’ hooves stronger than horses’ hooves?

Donkeys’ hooves are made for dry, rugged terrain. The have a more upright shape, and they take up moisture from the environment more efficiently than horses’ hooves. For this reason, they are tougher and more break resistant, so a donkey does well carrying fairly heavy loads on the trail. It is important to remember that donkeys’ hooves are not made to deal with wet climates well. If you live in an area that gets a lot of rain, be sure your donkey always has a dry area to rest and get out of the mud.

5. Do donkeys need feed to stay strong when used as a pack animal?

For the most part, donkeys do best with a diet that consists of good quality hay and/or grass. If your donkey is really working hard, you may want to add a small amount of complete feed and/or crimped oats to its diet. If the weather is very cold, your donkey may also need feed to stay warm. Consult your vet to formulate a plan.

1 thought on “How Much Weight Can A Donkey Carry?”

  1. Nicky, perhaps you help with a question about donkeys?

    I seriously research a legend about lost French gold. In the legend, donkeys were used to haul the gold to different locations at high altitudes in the Southern Colorado Rockies. I was told that a standard donkey could carry about 100 pounds? Is this correct? The time period would have been roughly 1790. Your saying 125 pounds…

    The amount of gold was 3,516 20oz ingots (bars). I estimated that at 125 pounds, each donkey could carry 100 bars which would equal 125 pounds. I was reading your blog and was impressed. I think more than anyone that I have read, you might be able to help…

    Rick Lee


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