Donkeys can be incredibly affectionate animals that form close bonds with their owners and develop tight friendships with other donkeys. They will even befriend other species if they are kept together for any period.

However, at first glance, and without experience with these animals, they can seem distant and difficult to get along with. However, while donkeys can’t articulate their emotions into words that we understand, they do have many ways of expressing their emotions.


The 6 Ways Donkeys Show Their Affection

Below are six ways that donkeys show affection. Typically, these affectionate gestures are targeted at their donkey companions, but they may also try and emulate one or more of them with you and other people.

1. Proximity

Donkeys are sociable animals, and they like to be as close as possible to those that they consider part of their social circle. If you have a one-acre field with a pair of bonded donkeys, they will rarely be apart.

Similarly, when you visit your donkey, if it tries to stand as close to you as possible, approaches the fence near where you’re working, or makes any other attempt to get close to you, this is a good sign that it holds a degree of affection towards you.

woman feeding donkeys
Image Credit: Yurii Vasyliev, Shutterstock

2. Grooming

Donkeys groom one another to rid the other of parasites and pests. It also helps to strengthen bonds between donkeys, and grooming donkeys is one way that humans show their affection to the animal.

Your donkey may try and reciprocate the grooming action by first leaning into you. Many owners try to stop their donkeys from grooming them because it can involve certain actions that can injure people.

3. Nipping

Grooming from a donkey starts with a lip motion, which shouldn’t cause too much discomfort for people and certainly won’t for other donkeys. After some time mouthing in this way, though, the donkey will use its teeth and may start nipping at another donkey’s neck and back. The other donkey will tolerate the nipping before moving away when it has had enough.

While donkeys can tolerate donkey nips, they can be a lot more painful for people, but an attempt to nip you in this way is usually a sign of affection and not aggression.

farmer taking care of donkeys
Image Credit; BearFotos, Shutterstock

4. Nuzzling

Nuzzling is the action of gently pushing with the nose and mouth. Donkeys do this to one another as a sign of love, and they will often try and replicate the action with their humans.

Most owners appreciate this action, but like grooming it can progress to nipping and full-on biting, so you do need to keep an eye on it to ensure that it doesn’t get too heated.

5. Vocalization

Donkeys can be very loud. They bray, making noise on the intake and exhale of breath, and it can be loud and seemingly with no end. It is most commonly heard when one donkey is missing another donkey but may be a sign of anxiety over some other perceived situation.

Donkeys also have some quieter noises in their repertoire, including friendly growls. Although usually reserved for their young, donkeys may also direct some of these affectionate growls to their humans.

Credit: Pixabay

6. Playing

Donkeys can be wonderfully playful animals. They will literally frolic in the field with their bonded mate, and they will also play with other animals in the field, including goats and dogs.

The problem is that a lot of this play involves the donkey happily kicking out. While it is meant as a sign of happiness and affection, it can really hurt. Instead, grab a ball or another toy that you know your donkey likes, head into the field, and enjoy some playtime between the two of you.


What Does It Mean When a Donkey Puts Its Ears Back?

A donkey’s ears can be quite expressive, but the problem is understanding what a particular ear position means, especially because the same position can seemingly mean different things at different times.

For example, ears pinned back can mean that the donkey wants to be left alone and to be given space. It might mean a young donkey wants to play.

Why Does My Donkey Bray at Me?

Donkeys bray as a means of communication and the loud and continuous noise can sound alarming because of its volume and intensity. However, this is another action that can have several interpretations.

It could be a sign of alarm, meaning that your donkey recognizes some kind of threat, or it might be alarmed that you’ve walked away without leaving food behind. It might even be a sign of affection or excitement.

spotted donkey
Image Credit: Michelle_Maria, Pixabay

What Does It Mean When a Donkey Snorts?

While some actions and movements can be ambiguous and have several meanings, one that you should generally stay away from is the donkey snort. This is usually used as a sign of aggression and may occur when your donkey is frightened and as a sign of defense.

What Does It Mean When a Donkey Curls Its Lip?

Known as the Flehmen Response, donkeys curl their lip over their top teeth to direct smells to the roof of the mouth where they process new aromas. This movement typically means that something new or alarming has entered your donkey’s area.

Are Donkeys More Affectionate Than Horses?

Donkeys are generally considered more affectionate than horses. They are more approachable and more likely to approach you, or strangers. They enjoy rubs and strokes, especially between the ears, and they will nuzzle and even try to groom you if they feel close to you. However, horses can be very affectionate, too, so it does depend on the character of the individual as much as it depends on the species of animal.

two donkeys in the meadow
Image Credit: vvvita, Shutterstock



Donkeys are affectionate, fun, and funny animals. They can form a very close bond with their owners, as well as with other donkeys and even some other animals. Some donkeys are very friendly and will instantly take a liking to new people, although it can take time for them to really form a bond.

An example of how affectionate these animals are is shown in the range of gestures they show other donkeys and people. This includes being close to those they love, nuzzling, grooming, and attempting to play.

Featured Image Credit: BearFotos, Shutterstock