Dogs woof, cats meow, and donkeys bray. The distinctive “hee-haw” bray that a donkey makes is comical to some and irritating to others, but it’s uniquely theirs. Like other animals, donkeys bray for numerous possible reasons. They may be lonely, hungry, scared, or stressed. Donkeys also bray to greet other donkeys and familiar humans, or when they’re hurt.

It can be hard to tell the difference between an “I’m scared” bray and an “I’m hungry” bray, but with time, you’ll be able to identify subtle differences in a donkey’s bray. Let’s check out some more interesting info about why donkeys bray, how to minimize problematic braying, and more.


The 6 Reasons Why Donkeys Bray

We briefly covered why donkeys bray above, but let’s go into some more detail about each of those below.

1. Hunger

Donkeys will bray to alert their owners that they’re hungry, and some are more demanding than others. They have a kind of internal clock that goes off when it’s close to or past their feeding time, so a consistent feeding schedule should eliminate hunger brays.

donkey eating carrots
Image Credit: William Hager, Shutterstock

2. Loneliness

Donkeys are social creatures. They typically prefer to spend time with other donkeys, but even equine or livestock companions should help alleviate loneliness.

When a donkey gets lonely, they’ll loudly bray to call for companionship. Ideally, donkeys should be kept in pairs or groups to minimize these types of cries.

3. Distress

Donkeys afflicted with disease, insects, or injuries will bray to alert their owners that they’re hurt and need help. If your donkey has no apparent reason for braying, consider checking them for bug bites, injuries, or other signs of harm.

Braying poitou donkey
Image Credit: George Schmiesing, Shutterstock

4. Fear and Aggression

Donkeys will bray when they’re scared of predators, so it’s important to keep them penned up at night. If you’d prefer to let them roam, you can install motion sensor lights on your property to help deter predators.

Even donkeys in pens will sometimes bray to alert nearby animals of a threat. Donkeys aren’t usually fearful animals, so this type of bray should be relatively rare.

5. Communication

Like many other animals, donkeys will vocalize to greet other donkeys, animals, or humans. Out in the fields, a donkey’s loud bray helps maintain contact with other animals, so they don’t get separated.

close up at a low angle of a brown and white irish donkey standing in a field
Image Credit: Three Sixty Images, Shutterstock

6. Excitement

When a donkey is excited to see you, feeds, or plays with other animals, they may bray in excitement. This type of bray is usually combined with energetic body language, affection, and playfulness. They might also be begging for you to pet them or otherwise pay them attention.

donkey-divider How to Solve Excessive Braying

If a donkey is braying too much, it can be very disruptive to other animals and people. To solve excessive braying, you should go through a quick checklist to identify and solve the problem. Let’s see what to check below in a handy list.

How to Solve Disruptive Braying:

  • Create a consistent feeding routine. Donkeys know when it’s time to eat, even if they can’t tell the time!
  • Ensure the donkey has other donkeys or friendly animals as companions. At night, even being able to hear other animals in neighboring stalls will help soothe lonely donkeys.
  • Install security cameras and motion sensor lights to illuminate and deter predators. Check the camera feed periodically if your donkey brays at night to see if coyotes or foxes are sneaking around.
  • Regularly schedule appointments with a livestock vet to protect against diseases.
  • Regularly conduct a visual inspection of your donkey to check for bug bites and wounds
miniature donkey eating
Image credit: babeaudufraing, Shutterstock



Donkeys are unfairly maligned, but with proper care and patience, they can be great pets, companions, or even guard animals. Paying attention to the pitch and tone when your donkey brays in various situations will help you identify potential problems in the future and better understand your furry friend.

Featured Image Credit: KarinR, Shutterstock