There are certain animals that capture our imagination and hearts. For some folks it may be whales or penguins. For others it may be bison or birds. But for me, it is burros (or donkeys in English). I’m not quite sure why I am so fascinated by these shy, often misunderstood animals, but something about their cautious and mild demeanor, intrigues me. I did not grow up around burros nor have I had much experience with them over the years. I do know that I am not a fan of horses, for they intimidate me. Meanwhile, I do not feel the same regarding burros.
Heaven knows that burros have been poorly treated by humans throughout much of history. Whether they were used a beasts of burden or literally slaughtered by rangers at certain national parks, burros have had a tough go of it through the millennia. Maybe, that’s part of their allure – they have survived hardship through thick and thin and largely remain amiable, though cautious about humans when we approach them.
My first up close encounter with burros that I remember was just a few years ago in California. At the La Purisma Mission State Park near Lompoc, two burros cautiously watched my wife and I wander about the mission grounds. Eventually, I decided to stop by their corral and say hello. It took a few minutes, but with a little encouragement, both of them ambled my way so I could get close up photographs and rub their snout and ears. At that point I was hooked on burros. Unfortunately, I had no snacks to share with them.
Last February, we had three varied and entertaining encounters with burros. The first was Little Donkeytown USA at Rooster Coburn’s Ostrich Farm & Petting Zoo in Picacho, Arizona. Here you could hand feed miniature burros. While this was rather fun and they appeared to be treated well, it did feel like they were a bit of a sideshow or carnival attraction. Despite this hinderance, one could still feel the kinship between humans and burros when we would pet them.
The following day, we hit the burro lover’s jackpot by visiting Forever Home Donkey Rescue north of Benson, Arizona. Upon arrival, some of the burros looked up to see who was here, while others just peeked at us from where they were standing. It only took a few moments from the we exited the car to have burros approaching and greeting us from multiple directions. We could not feed them, as many of them are convalescing, so they were on a regimented diet schedule do to being previously overfed, under-exercised, abandoned, or improperly treated by prior owners. Regardless of this limitation, the burros sure loved to be pet and have their ears rubbed. We have rarely had as much fun as we did for the 90 minutes were there meeting the likes of Turbo, Cisco, and many other burro buddies.
FYI- If you are interested in meeting the burros here, please call ahead to schedule an appointment before visiting Forever Home Donkey Rescue.
A few days later while walking through the quaint art colony town of Tubac, Arizona, we passed by a corral that had three burros grazing on the stubbled remains left growing amidst the dusty ground at the far end of the property. We briefly stopped to take a photo of them and wouldn’t you know it – one of the burros decided to wander over in our direction to check us out. Whether it was curiosity, a desire to have his ears to be rubbed, or the hope of a snack that caused this lone burro to walk our way, I do not know. All I do know is I wish I had some carrots in my pocket for him to munch on. Mental note: carry baby carrots with me more often when in the Western USA!
Just last month I thought we would go an entire trip out West without seeing any burros. Luckily, on our last day in New Mexico we stopped in historic Los Cerrillos, located south of Santa Fe along the Turquoise Trail National Scenic Byway. It turns out the Cerrillos Fiesta was taking place that day and the donkey (burro) race had just been completed. That meant there were a cavalcade of burros wandering around being photographed and praised for their efforts. It was literally burro buddy nirvana for me.
Once again their were no carrots in my pocket (grrr), but one group of burros were there from Mustang Camp, an organization from Milan, New Mexico that cares for and trains wild horses and burros so they may be adopted. While one might ask (like I did) why they cannot just roam freely. The sad and short answer is that they would be killed/culled otherwise. All four of the burros in the pen we curious about me, but only Louise allowed me to get close enough to pet her and feed her some alfalfa by hand (see photo below).
I was able to make short introductions with several other burros while in Los Cerritos, including Bingo, who was decked out in paper flower bouquets for the occasion (see photo below).
Lastly, I was able to meet this cute burro (see photo below) at the Fall Festival in of all places, Syracuse Indiana in early October. Needless to say it was expected and pleasant surprise.
Here’s my list of known donkey/burro rescue and adoption organizations (with links) in the United States. Please feel free to forward any additions or corrections.
- Equine Aid Horse & Donkey Rescue – Monroe, WA
- Farm Sanctuaries (located in several states)
- Forever Home Donkey Rescue – Benson, AZ
- Habitat for Horses – Alvin, TX
- Holyland Donkey Haven – Fond du Lac, WI
- Longhopes Donkey Shelter – Bennett, CO
- Lusco Farms Donkey Rescue – Malvern, IA
- Mustang Camp – Milan, NM
- Pleasant Valley Donkey Rescue (located in multiple states – headquartered in San Angelo, TX)
- Save Your Ass Long Ear Rescue – South Acworth, NH
- Turning Pointe Donkey Rescue – Dansville, MI
- Virginia Donkey Rescue – Concord, VA
These pleasant animals were brought to North America by Spanish missionaries, conquistadors, and settlers a number of centuries ago. They had no say in the matter and should not be hunted and killed for being a perceived nuisance or inconvenience. In fact, some studies may show wild burros may actually help some of the ecosystems where they now reside. Thankfully, organizations like those that are listed above are working hard to save the donkeys/burros (both wild and domesticated) across the country. And for that, I am very thankful.
Amo los burros!