New study aims to help protect donkeys and horses in bad weather

New study aims to help protect donkeys and horses in bad weather

11 December 2015

A new study will help to determine the correct type of shelter for donkeys and horses, with the aim of influencing legislation relating to the keeping of domestic equines.

Dr Britta Osthaus, from the School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology, will work with The Donkey Sanctuary, University of Sussex, The Dartmoor Pony Heritage Trust and leading expert in natural horse management, Lucinda McAlpine, to undertake this new research project entitled, Protection from the Elements in Donkeys and Horses.

The team will investigate how donkeys, horses and ponies use manmade and natural shelter and how they dissipate heat under different weather conditions. 

The year-long project will observe over 150 donkeys, horses and ponies experiencing all weather conditions that the UK provides during this time. The project aims to address two important areas: a behavioural study of shelter use and a heat loss study using infrared thermography. The results will allow The Donkey Sanctuary and its partners to determine what differing factors strongly influence the desire of donkeys and horses to seek shelter, and which features of shelter are important.

Faith Burden, Head of Research at The Donkey Sanctuary, said: “Investigating how donkeys and other equines use shelter throughout the seasons will help us to understand their unique needs.

“Donkeys have evolved to live in warm, dry climates. It is widely believed that they are less adapted to the rather damp and cool environment of the UK; often requiring a manmade shelter in addition to natural protection and rugs.

“To date there has been no scientific study assessing the shelter needs of donkeys. It is also evident that there is little research into the shelter needs of horses and ponies.

“By improving our understanding of the needs of donkeys and other equines for shelter we hope to help advise owners on improved management practices and to influence legislation relating to the keeping of domestic equines”.


Notes to Editor

The Donkey Sanctuary

  • The Donkey Sanctuary was founded by the late Dr Elisabeth Svendsen M.B.E. in 1969.  They support projects to alleviate the suffering of donkeys in 30 countries worldwide, including sanctuaries across Europe, where more than 18,000 donkeys and mules have been cared for, and major projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya and Mexico, where donkey welfare is improved through community education and veterinary work. They also provide donkey assisted therapy for children and adults with additional needs and therapeutic visits to care homes in the local community from our centres in Belfast, Birmingham, Ivybridge, Leeds, Manchester and Sidmouth.
  • For further information telephone: 01395 578222, go to their website or visit the charity’s headquarters near Sidmouth, in Devon (open 365 days/free admission).

Canterbury Christ Church University

Canterbury Christ Church University is a modern university with a particular strength in higher education for the public services.

With almost 18,000 students across Kent and Medway, its courses span a wide range of academic and professional subject areas.

  • 95% of our UK graduates were in employment or further studies six months after completing their studies*.

*2012/13 Destination of Leavers from Higher Education survey

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Last edited: 05/12/2017 02:43:00