Are Donkeys Smarter Than Horses? (EXPLAINED!!)

For centuries, donkeys and horses have been very close allies to humans. They serve both for pleasure and to do farm work such as carrying heavy loads. Sometimes, it can be amazing to see the incredible feats displayed by these animals such as how they communicate with humans and other animals and how they respond to commands or remember information. But which equine is smarter? Are donkeys smarter than horses?

Donkeys are the smartest equines, besides mules. While a horse may follow your every command, a donkey will usually access the situation and may “freeze”. This is often because donkeys generally have a stronger sense of self-preservation and are more “clever” with their decisions. 

In this article, we will look at a donkey’s intelligence in comparison with that of a horse. We will also answer questions related to their loyalty and trainability.  

Are donkeys smarter than horses


Are Donkeys Dumb?

The age-old belief that donkeys are “dumb” and stubborn is inaccurate. On the contrary, donkeys are very intelligent. If you’re holding a different position, it’s probably because you knew little about the animal.

Intelligence in animals is usually subjective. It’s difficult or almost impossible to evaluate things objectively. Having said that, there are certain traits we can use to determine how dumb or smart a critter is. These include:

  • Communication
  • Problem-solving
  • Self-awareness/concentration
  • Curiosity 
  • Trainability
  • Memory 

Going by this list, according to donkey breeders, donkeys are quite intelligent. In fact, they are more intelligent than horses. While a horse is likely to obey your commands routinely, a donkey may “decide” NOT to obey depending on the circumstances. This is why many handlers often regard them as being stubborn and unintelligent. 

The truth is that donkeys act based on self-preservation (more on this later). This means that they will likely not obey a command if it doesn’t make them feel at ease. However, if you treat them well or ask them nicely, they will likely respond positively to your calls.  

Why Are Donkeys Smarter Than Horses?

As earlier indicated, donkeys are very intelligent creatures. And unlike horses, they are not easy to scare. If they feel threatened, instead of running away, they will freeze. This is probably why they are generally perceived as being stubborn.

In reality, the natural instinct of donkeys to resist their handlers sometimes has a lot to do with self-preservation. During such times, it’s easier to call the donkey “dumb” or “stupid” instead of looking at what is causing it to behave that way.

Three main factors suggest that donkeys are indeed smarter than horses. 

First, they have good instincts for self-preservation. They will often “freeze” or disobey their handler if they feel they are in danger or a particular situation doesn’t favor them. 

Secondly, donkeys are more patient than horses. They are not easily scared. Horses are impatient and easily get scared. So, they can be a bit more flighty.

Thirdly, donkeys, generally, tend to figure things out more quickly than horses. These include observing their surrounding, solving problems, analyzing routes, detecting unusual behavior, and knowing who to trust. 

How High Is The IQ Of A Donkey?

Currently, it is NOT possible to measure the IQ of a donkey. This is because IQ (Intelligence Quotient) is a human concept; so it’s only valid for humans (and maybe, dogs). 

However, even though there are no scientific tests to measure the IQ of donkeys, we can still infer their level of intelligence by simply observing them. Besides mules (which are hybrids between male donkeys and female horses), donkeys are the smartest equines and tend to think independently. 

A donkey possesses an excellent memory and has the ability to learn fast. Unlike a horse, a donkey will stop and access a situation before it decides whether or not to panic or take flight. They have an exceptional ability to analyze routes. Even without the help of its handler, a donkey can carry a load to a destination. This is exactly how the Jehadis carried their supplies. 

Donkeys also remember good and negative experiences. This is why it’s extremely important to be careful with them as a handler. 

Are Donkeys More Loyal Than Horses?

Yes, donkeys are far more loyal than horses. In fact, you can regard them as the dogs of the livestock world. Having said that, their loyalty and trust don’t come easy. You will have to earn it! 

While a horse may obey your command routinely, a donkey may “decide” whether or not it should obey. This is why horses are easier to train. 

When handling donkeys, it’s extremely important to be consistent in your actions and be calm and gentle when you’re around them. This helps to reassure the animal and increase their trust. Over time, a strong bond is forged. Once a donkey becomes familiar, you must not separate it.

A good way to know you’ve gained a donkey’s trust is if it lets you touch its large, smooth, soft ears without any resistance.

Other indications that show a donkey trusts you include when it seeks to be petted, stands close to you, likes belly rubs, begs for treats, and other playful behavior.

Besides humans, donkeys can also be close to other pasture animals such as horses, dogs, and their fellow donkeys. In fact, they mourn their dead friends, and may even become sick in the process.

Conclusion: Are Donkeys Smarter than Horses?

To conclude, donkeys are smarter than horses. Together with mules, there are probably the smartest equines. 

In addition to their intelligence, donkeys are also loyal and willing to take orders as long as they trust you. To fully explore their nature and get the best behavior from them, you will need a lot of commitment and patience. 

Also, being consistent and showing kindness will help forge a strong bond with your donkey and reinforce good behavior. As long as you’re able to meet their basic needs and provide them with adequate care, you can expect a good relationship that will last for years. 


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