Everyone knows you can ride a horse, but what about a donkey? They have a similar body shape to horses, and some donkeys are almost as large. As it turns out, you can ride donkeys! The rule of thumb is that donkeys can support 20%–30% of their body weight, but you have to consider the size of the donkey.

There are three major donkey weight classes that will determine how much weight they can hold. Let’s take a brief look at those below.


Donkey Weight Classes

  • Miniature: these weigh 200–400 pounds and can carry 40–80 pounds.
  • Standard: regular donkeys weigh between 400–900 pounds and can carry 80–180 pounds.
  • Mammoth: the largest donkeys of all, these monsters weigh 900–1,300 pounds and can carry 180–260 pounds.

This means that, in most cases, miniature or standard donkeys can carry children, teenagers, and lightweight adults. Mammoth donkeys are the only type that’s large and heavy enough to support the weight of a large adult.

close up of miniature donkeys
Image Credit: cctm, Shutterstock

How Much Can Donkeys Hold Compared to Horses, Other Animals, and Machines?

Donkeys are fairly strong, with many able to carry 20%–30% of their body weight. How does the average donkey stack up against a mule, horse, human, or car? Let’s check below.

AnimalWeight Supported
Donkey20%–30% of their body weight
Horse20% of their body weight
Mule20%–30% of their body weight
Human150% of their body weight
Car850 pounds on average

Are Donkeys Faster Than Horses?

Donkeys are significantly slower than horses, plodding along at about 15 miles per hour compared to your average horse running at 30 miles per hour. In short bursts, horses can go up to 55 miles per hour. However, this really depends on the breed of horse and donkey.

A donkey bred for speed might be able to outrace a horse that’s built to pull plows. The point is that donkeys can compete with horses in a limited capacity. It’s not unusual for donkeys to compete in official equestrian events.

The fastest known donkey breed is the Asiatic wild ass, also called onagers. These are one of the only donkey breeds to never be domesticated. They can run up to 43 miles per hour.

donkeys carrying goods for human
Image Credit: Simon, Pixabay

Are Donkeys Safer to Ride than Horses?

Surprisingly, donkeys are a safer ride than horses. They’re not prone to spooking at the first sign of trouble, so you can expect your donkey to calmly assess a situation before taking action.

For densely wooded mountain trails, a donkey may be a better companion than a horse. You definitely don’t want a horse bucking you off in such perilous terrain.

What Do You Need to Ride a Donkey?

Donkeys have a wider back than horses, so regular horse saddles won’t cut it. Sadly, you’ll have to pay a fair bit to get a donkey saddle since they’re not as in demand as horse saddles.

We recommend you take measurements yourself when ordering a saddle because donkey body sizes vary. Using horse saddles may harm your donkey by putting weight unevenly across its back.



Donkeys get a bad rap as mean and stubborn, but they’re really thoughtful companions, just like horses. They also don’t spook as often, which means you’re safer in uncertain conditions.

Donkeys are very strong, as long as you choose one that can support your weight. On average, they can hold 20%–30% of their body weight.

Featured Image Credit: Ekaterina, Pixabay