Donkey owners encourage fairs to take up new livestock category



The Donkey and Mule Days in Nashville annually draw about 60,000 participants.
By NANCY TULLIS
VINDICATOR SALEM BUREAU
LISBON -- Madaline and Molly Brite are on a public relations tour in an effort to promote the addition of donkey and mule categories to the open class livestock shows at the Columbiana County Fair.
Wes Givens and David and Beverly Converse brought Madaline, a 3-year-old donkey and her 3-week-old offspring, Molly Brite, to the fair. Madaline and Molly Brite are here to meet and greet visitors to the pony barn and spur interest in donkeys and mules.
Givens has a farm in Paris Township, Stark County, and the Converse farm is in Fairfield Township. They keep donkeys at both locations and share responsibilities.
"Donkey and mule shows are a lot of fun," Beverly said. "We go to a big show each year, Donkey and Mule Days in Nashville. Each June there's about 60,000 donkeys and mules there."
Beverly said donkeys and mules can perform most of the same show ring feats as horses or ponies. There are halter and riding and cart classes, and even an obstacle course.
She said about 15 area donkey and mule owners have said they would participate if there were donkey and mule classes at next year's fair.
Learning about donkeys
Meanwhile, Beverly hopes fairgoers will bring their children to see Molly Brite and Madaline and that children and adults alike will have a lot of questions. Molly Brite will also be at the Canfield Fair at the petting zoo, she said.
She said a mule is a cross of a donkey and a horse, and the offspring of a donkey and a pony is called a hinny. In most cases, neither a hinny nor a mule can reproduce, she said. The males of a donkey, hinny or mule are called jacks, and the females are jennies, she said.
Donkeys and mules have very different personalities and temperaments than horses and ponies, but the saying "stubborn as a mule" isn't totally accurate, Beverly said.
"You have to work with them so they want to do what you want them to," she said. "You can't make them do what they don't want to. Most of the time though, if they won't go where you're trying to take them, it's because there's something wrong. They are sure footed, and they can tell if the place they're about to step isn't firm. If they don't like it, they want to go around it."
Protectorate nature
Beverly said she likes to have donkeys on her farm because they are good protectors. She puts them in the pasture with her sheep and goats, and they will chase away stray dogs or coyotes. She said in the large sheep herds in the western United States, ranchers put one donkey in the field for each 25 sheep.
Givens operates an animal rescue shelter, Animals R U, and has dogs, cats, rabbits and other animals at the farm, along with Madaline and Molly Brite. He said he gained an appreciation for donkeys when he adopted some while living in Arkansas. The donkeys were going to be killed because they had bad hooves, but at Givens' farm, they lived 30 years.
Molly Brite was born July 15. Her arrival was a birthday surprise for Givens.
Madeline had only recently arrived at Given's farm, purchased from a woman who had too many donkeys. Givens did not know Madaline was pregnant.
"I heard a lot of commotion, the dogs were all barking," he said. "I got a flashlight and went out to the pasture. Madaline was all by herself. I shined the light on her and wow! I saw four ears instead of two."
tullis@vindy.com

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