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Happy Father's Day

We wanted to celebrate Father's Day in a special way, so we thought to write a little story about one of our determined donkeys here at the Sanctuary, George. A special tribute to all fathers (dads) all over the world, who are daily doing their best to fill us with strength, and making sure we will overcome any obstacle coming our way... Enjoy your reading, and Happy Father's Day!

George's Strange Habit

Almost all humans and animals have some sort of habit, and our George here in Cyprus is no exception. His, is one we've never seen before. First, a little background about George who came to us six years ago. Aged seven, he had been rescued by a retired British couple who live on the island. At the time he was a stallion, had never been handled, was suspicious of everyone and everything and yet not once did he ever kick, bite or do anything out of fear to defend himself. After being castrated, it became apparent that there was something not right with George's eyesight. It transpired he had cataracts which his rescuers had removed – an amazing achievement to find a vet to do this!

As a result, his eyesight was much better although he wasn't able, and still can't , focus on things properly. He could really benefit from varifocal spectacles!

Unfortunately, the couple who rescued George weren't able to care for him and asked he we had room for him at one of our Holding Bases, and so he came to us. After his six weeks in the New Arrivals Unit, he joined the Special Needs group as we felt he would feel more safe and secure than being with the more boisterous youngsters.

George gradually learned his way around although we soon realised he really took his time to move around – a very long time!

This is due to the fact his close and distance vision seems to be the most affected. Over the time it became very clear that George would not be rushed into anything, preferred to make his own way around rather than be led and, as he is a typically large Cypriot donkey who weighs quite a lot, if George doesn't want to move, he doesn't!

As we need to keep any eye on his weight, when it's extra feed time for some of the other donkeys, George has to wait outside under the external cover until the others have all finished. Now one skill George is an expert at, is sniffing out one pellet of extra feed that is in a trough full of chopped straw five metres away inside the barn!

He loves coming in for a rummage on the off chance that there might be a morsel for him, but a few months ago he started this strange habit. When the barn doors are opened at either end of the barn, George walks around the barn three times, always in the same direction, before coming inside! Every day he does this peculiar ritual, until a week ago.

This only happened after the Holding Base owner got his mobile phone out to video George circling the barn! Day after day, the owner tried to film him, only twice did George walk around the barn – once. Yes, just once and so we can only show you the one lap on this video.

Watch video

Now you may not believe this but since the filming attempts stopped, he's gone back to circling three times again! What's that TV adage? Never work with children or animals?


International Donkey Day

“The donkey has always helped man, in most parts of the world it still does, and it never asks for anything in exchange.”
Dr. Elisabeth Svendsen MBE – Founder of The Donkey Sanctuary.

How to celebrate International Donkey Day

  • Become a donkey ambassador! Learn more through our website resources and take the opportunity to raise donkeys status sharing with family, friends and community their uniqueness and marvel.
  • Be a responsible owner: donkeys’ life lasts for about 30 years. Before take the decision to open your family to any donkey, consider this aspect, the necessary time and economic resources and remember that they will suffer incredibly if separated by you.
  • Be a responsible “user”. If you ever decide to take a ride, please ensure that working donkeys are safe, well cared and their needs ensured.
  • Spend quality time with donkeys!

10 Interesting tips

  1. They are highly intelligent creatures, sociable and calm, capable of independent thinking and decision-making.
  2. They are strong and will not do something they consider unsafe, which makes them a great, trusted companion.
  3. There are over 44 million donkeys worldwide.
  4. In Ethiopia, there is a saying: ‘If you don’t have a donkey, then you are a donkey.’
  5. Donkeys do not drink dirt water.
  6. These social and intelligent sentient beings have a unique capacity to bond with each other and with humans, their heart rates even synchronising with those with whom they come into contact. (Evidences by a research made at Donkey Assisted Therapy department of The Donkey Sanctuary).
  7. Donkeys are great bodyguards! As well as being fiercely loyal to their bonded partners, donkeys are also renowned for their ability to protect large herds. They can be seen across the globe in sheep and goat flocks, cattle herd, as they will attack predators to protect their family.
  8. Donkeys dig! In desert areas, feral and wild donkeys dig to access groundwater. The little wells they create not only help themselves, but they also sustain much smaller animals that would otherwise struggle to access water in the scorching heat.
  9. Their ears can caught noises from km away, and they have a temperature control function!
  10. Donkeys are super escapers! Please ensure to have a safe fencing and to check it regularly. You know that the neighbour’s grass is always greener!

History of the donkey

Although millions of years ago donkeys and horses had the same ancestors they have evolved to be very different species and understanding those differences are of vital importance to the care and welfare of donkeys. There are two distinct species of wild donkey; the Asiatic branch of the species came from an area stretching from the Red Sea to Northern India and Tibet where the ass had to adapt to different climate, terrain and altitude. Consequently, there is more than one type of Asiatic wild ass. The African branch of the species was found in North Africa between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara Desert to the south of the Red Sea. There were two separate species of the African ass: the Nubian wild ass and the Somali wild ass. Our modern domesticated donkeys are all descended from these African wild asses’ ancestors.

Donkeys were first domesticated around 6,000 years ago in North Africa and Egypt for meat and milk. Around 2,000 years ago, donkeys were among the draught animals used to carry silk from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean along the Silk Road in return for trade goods. The overland route was approximately 4,000 miles or 6,400kms and lasted several years. No single animal completed the entire journey and mixing of breeds occurred as unplanned matings happened en-route to give us the beginnings of the diverse range of donkey breeds we now have. The journey ended in the Mediterranean ports of Greece, Italy, the Middle East and Alexandria in Egypt. In Greece donkeys were found to be ideal animals for working on the narrow paths between the vines. Their use for cultivation in vineyards spread through the Mediterranean countries to Spain, whose coast at the southern tip is separated from North Africa by only a few miles - possibly another entry route for the African wild ass.

The Roman Army was responsible for the movement of donkeys into Northern Europe. Donkeys were used in agriculture and as pack animals. The Romans used donkeys in their new vineyards, some planted as far north as France and Germany. Donkeys went to England with the Roman invasion of Britain in AD 43. However, donkeys were still not commonly documented in the UK until after the 1550s. After the mid-17th Century, Oliver Cromwell's invasion of Ireland saw an influx of donkeys being used to bear the labours of war. Following this, large numbers of donkeys were introduced to the country for the first time - opening opportunities for poorer and agricultural Irish communities to keep a cheap, working draft animal.

Working Equids

The vast majority of the world’s equid population are working animals. An estimated 112 million working horses, ponies, donkeys and mules are essential to the livelihoods of some of the poorest communities in Africa, Asia and South/Central America. The traditional beast of burden, their socio-economic value is often taken for granted, with people taking advantage of their hardworking traits.

Research has highlighted that rural communities across the world rank working equids as their most important. In rural areas, working equids are often used in farming and as transportation: they pull ploughs and carts, deliver goods to market, herd livestock and collect water from wells. In urban areas, they are mainly used in construction, transport of people and goods, and refuse collection. By enabling their owners to participate in work, they boost economic capacity, which is often used towards the cost of education that promotes gender equality by allowing women to be economically active.

Simple interventions can empower owners to keep their working equids healthy and ensure their continued productive benefit. These interventions include improved access to good, affordable harnessing, hoof care and veterinary interventions, and, above all, the empowerment of their owners with better knowledge of equine management important livestock, due to their capacity to support income generation.

International Donkey Day

Sad farewell to Tom

In May this year, we had to say goodbye to a very special donkey – Tom. He was 26 years old. It was a very difficult decision, and despite our very best efforts to treat him, we eventually had to let him go, as we did not want him suffering.

It is always very difficult for us, each time we have to say farewell to any of our dearest donkeys.

We first met Tom in 2011 through our community programme, the owner contacted us in order to check whether we could take Tom, as he did not have a proper place to keep him. The field that Tom was in belonged to someone else who needed it, and so Tom had nowhere to go.

As soon as we met Tom we could tell he was a lovely and well behaved donkey and would fit in well with our herd.

Tom was so excited when he arrived at the Sanctuary. He was so keen to meet all the other donkeys. Especially after he had spent some time in the isolation unit on his own, you can imagine how happy he was he could finally meet his new friends.

He epitomised the absolute joy of life; always trying to do anything that would make you smile. Rolling on the ground was one of his favourite habits, and then he would instantly get up making funny faces at you – visitors absolutely loved him!

Tom was always sniffing his carers’ t-shirts, and if their scent were any good to him, he would start chewing them off!

Tom has left us with countless sweet memories of him and our time with him, we wish more people could have met him. However, those who have met Tom will tell you that he was a real gem.

We will always carry you in our hearts sweetie. May your beautiful soul rest in peace.


Cyprus office


As the majority of our great supporters are aware, we used to accept visitors at our office for donations and information about our work. 

Following a review of some of our European Operations The Donkey Sanctuary has taken the difficult decision to close its dedicated office in Cyprus.

The Donkey Sanctuary Cyprus will continue operating and providing for the donkeys currently in its direct care, ensuring the best welfare standards for the rest of their lives. The Donkey Sanctuary will continue to advocate improving donkey welfare in Cyprus and will collaborate with stakeholders and owners of donkeys and mules, supported by the Donkey Sanctuary headquarters in UK.

All future community programme work will be coordinated through The Donkey Sanctuary's Global Programmes department, based in the UK.

Staff affected directly by the closure of the Cyprus office will move to homeworking.  

Please note that you can still donate towards our cause or adopt a donkey through our online Gift Shop or through our website’s Adopt and Donate sections. You can also find more information about ways of supporting us through our website’s relevant section Ways to help.

Thank you for all your kind support on this matter.

Cyprus office

Santorini’s Equine Taxi Owners work hard to improve conditions for their donkeys

Owners of donkeys transporting tourists on the Greek island of Santorini have helped improve working conditions for their animals with the collaboration of the world’s largest equine welfare charity, The Donkey Sanctuary.

Donkey and mule taxi owners have come together to pay for repairs to damaged steps as well as shelters on routes the animals use to carry tourists from one of Santorini’s ports up to the town.

Yannis Xagoraris, President of the Thira Equine Taxi Union, said: “We were frustrated with the slow progress made by the municipality to improve working conditions for our donkeys and mules. So, our members got together and paid for repairs to the lower steps ourselves to make the work easier for our donkeys and mules.

“We understand work has been hampered by municipal elections, which took place in Greece earlier this year, with spending restrictions imposed on the Mayor and his departments. Going forward we are committed to working with the new Mayor, Mr Antonis Sigalas, and his municipality to make even more substantial changes to improve the working conditions for our equines”.

The Donkey Sanctuary, with its international headquarters in the UK, is the only equine welfare charity currently working with the Santorini Municipality, the Equine Taxi Association and other key stakeholders to bring about sustainable change on the island. This includes improving welfare conditions for donkeys and mules engaged in rubbish collection, island trekking and transporting tourists up to the main town from the port.

Kate Ferguson, Programme Manager said: “The Donkey Sanctuary has made several visits to the island over the past year and has assessed the health and welfare of the working mules and donkeys on the island.

“With over 90% assessed as having good health, we are reassured the health of the animals is not the main issue. The challenges we have identified are around the working conditions and we will continue to work with all parties involved to create lasting change to support the health and welfare of the working donkeys and mules in Santorini.”

The charity has found many owners have more than just respect for their animals; as Yannis Xagoraris, explained: “We are very committed to the protection of our animals, ensuring they have access to adequate food, good shelter and in general all the care they need. Our mules and donkeys are part of our lives, our family and part of our daily routine – in short, we love them!”

The Donkey Sanctuary does not actively promote the use of donkeys and mules in tourism but recognises that donkeys and mules form an important part of the social, cultural heritage and economic foundations of many countries.

In Greece, donkeys and mules are an intrinsic part of the tourism industry, providing families and communities with an opportunity to create a sustainable livelihood. Animal welfare remains key and must be a priority.

The Donkey Sanctuary is looking forward to working with the new Mayor Mr Antonis Sigalas and will continue conducting health and welfare visits throughout the year while continuing to work in liaison with all stakeholders on the island.


Grizoulla - a book with a difference

A very kind supporter - who is also a writer, has contacted us some time ago in order to express her wonderful gesture in helping us… She has written a book which reveals the story of a small female donkey, who was born here in Cyprus in the very old days.

The name of the book is Grizoulla - named after the donkey, and it is the story of the trials, tribulations and joys of a Cypriot donkey. This kind lady has decided to donate a few copies of the book to us in order to help raise funds for our work and donkeys on the island!

A very nice book, told with affection and humour by the writer Mrs Claire Oechslin and illustrated with Sylvia Woodcock-Clarke's delightful drawings. The book will both entertain and educate children as they follow Grizoulla and her faithful friend Oreo on their journey through the sometimes harsh landscape of a donkey's life in Cyprus.

The proceeds from buying just one book can feed a donkey for two days with straw, or provide two days of medication for our elderly donkeys. Not only do you receive a lovely gift but you're also helping donkeys have a better life.

You can buy the book through our online Gift Shop section from our website.

**IMPORTANT NOTICE: Please note that this book is not suitable for children under the age of 5 years old.

Grizoulla - a book with difference

Farewell dear Beau

We are sure those of you who knew Beau, will be as devastated as we were when our dear, dashing boy suddenly passed away on March 21st….

Beau had been under daily treatment for respiratory problems for the past few weeks, but unfortunately and despite our very best efforts did not improve and quietly passed away in his sleep at the age of 21 years old.

He will be greatly missed and none of us will ever forget his bold, but also kind nature.

Many of you will know the story of how Beau came to us back in 2005, aged 8 years old. He had been abandoned in a village near Limassol district and was found eating beans belonging to a rather irate farmer! He had two nasty large wounds on his face, which were treated by the vet.

He was an unusual colour for a donkey in Cyprus – more of a typical Eastern European donkey - grey with the well-recognised cross. He was a strong chap, but he was also into little tricks very often… One of them was to chew the grooms’ shirts while they were cleaning his paddock –something he really enjoyed doing! However, he was not so keen having his back hooves trimmed but as he was so handsome, we were always forgiving him for that!

As you are already aware of, we have recently replaced Beau in the Adoptions Scheme, and Pip Squeak has taken on his role. We all thank you for adopting him in the past, and for enabling us to do everything we could for him…

Rest in peace little boy – we will always carry you in our hearts..


Beau is retiring from his role in the adoption scheme

We would like to let you know about our lovable adoption donkey, Beau.

Our donkey friend has given many years of his life providing much love and pleasure to his fantastic family of adopters, and so we know that you will be sad to hear that from 1st March 2019 Beau will be retiring from his role in the adoption scheme. On the advice of our expert team, we felt it was time he had a well-earned rest from being in the limelight.

We very much want you, our beloved supporters to continue to enjoy all the benefits of adopting a donkey. We know how special Beau is to those of you who have adopted him, and will keep you updated when we have anything significant to tell you. In the meantime, we have nominally chosen one of our other donkeys to continue your adoption.

Pip Squeak is a brand new donkey to our adoption scheme who we think you'll adore. Came to us in November 2017 when he was just 11 months old, he is such an inquisitive and very friendly donkey and will always come across the paddock to say hello. He is very energetic and although being very tiny he is having a big heart. His best friend is Kikas and they spend a lot of time playing and galloping around in their paddock.

For those who adopted Beau already, please note that there is no need to do anything as the adoption will automatically transfer to the new adoption donkey - Pip Squeak. If you would prefer a different donkey, you are welcome to change this selection when your renewal falls due. We will contact you again when it's time to renew.

Your support for The Donkey Sanctuary and your beloved Beau has been heart-warming and we would love to continue with you as part of our adoptions family.



Back in 2015, we wrote about Adonis' rescue.

To help refresh your memory, Adonis was a beautiful and lovely natured young stallion, who was very well cared for and much loved by his owner who also had Adonis' mother.

Not long after visiting the two donkeys during our outreach at the time, we received a frantic phone call from the owner telling us that after his donkeys had been let loose by someone, Adonis had badly damaged his left eye.

After putting our vet in contact with the owner and giving him some advice to keep Adonis comfortable overnight, the owner soon realised that he could not give Adonis the proper and intensive care he so desperately needed, so we collected him early the next day. The injury to his eye was horrendous, and we did our best to treat it. Fortunately, although now blind in the eye, the eyeball was saved and Adonis made an amazing recovery. Throughout the daily treatments, it was as if he understood we were doing everything to help him. Adonis never complained and stood patiently during every procedure.

Adonis is such a brave and forgiving boy despite his eye injury adventure, and we all love him to bits!

We are so pleased to let you know that Adonis is doing perfectly fine, despite his ordeal. He is such a confident kind donkey, who loves being around people. Bless him, although he has got no bad ''habits'' he can be extremely noisy, particularly at night! He frequently wakens the holding base owner and starts the other donkeys braying - you can imagine the noise!

It never ceases to amaze us how forgiving animals can be despite going through traumatic events.

You can help us towards Adonis' care, by clicking on our Adopt, Donate or Gift Shop sections from our website.



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