Donkey semaphore

Donkey ears have an elaborate communication function which we can liken to semaphore signals. When I was walking with Dalie last summer, I noticed this in the encounters with other donkeys. The ears are constantly in motion, expressing a range of feelings and expectations, reactions and pleas to their handler. Here is a basic starter guide, with Matilde opening the batting…

1. Ears upright facing forward: expectation/hope ‘Is it food time again?’


2. Ears in SOS position, ten-past-ten: despair ‘It can’t be food time again because he hasn’t got the key to the food shed.’ (Rubi has woken up and is just in transition from ear signal 1 to 2.)


3. Left ear up and right ear down, casually flicked: ironic dismissal of owner ‘Keep yer alfalfa: we’ll just eat out tonight.’

Aren’t they beautiful, though? They are the loveliest two donkey babies in the world. Matilde 6 years old, Rubi 2 years old. Donkeys live to about forty years or longer. I wish I could have spent forty years with these two! They will see me out.

I cannot wait to get on the Camino de Santiago with Matilde. She is a real companion. Rubi will have to sadly stay at home. She is not yet a walking donkey and maybe never will be. Who knows? One day… No donkey should be deprived of the hope of being a peregrina to Santiago.

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About Gareth Thomas

A fairly mixed career starting as an aircraft technician and later Franciscan friar eventually led into secondary school teaching. I settled in Spain where I teach Geography part-time and spend the rest of my time looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca. I have two blogs: a geography blog and a donkey blog.
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5 Responses to Donkey semaphore

  1. karin says:

    Hope springs eternal!! Love this entry!! 🙂

  2. Barbara says:

    And of course there is ears flat against the head, shoulders down “You want me to do what? You are joking aren’t you?”

  3. Kathy says:

    Bunny, those are two fat donkeys you have there. You know what they say about owners looking like their pets :-} Time for a three way diet?

    Who will look after poor Rubi while you and Matilde are off on your jollie?

  4. Anonymous says:

    seems like they are ear to stay then?

  5. Frere Rabit says:

    Sorry, folks. I’m late approving the comments. I keep forgetting they need approving… I was used to the old open posting arrangement. It is very necessary. Even today there was another hostile post containing a huge collection of links. Why this nutcase is targeting a site about donkeys is anyone’s guess (but as the tragedy in Norway shows, there is no shortage of nut-cases in the world we live in).

    Oh that’s right, Barbara. Ears flat against the head defiance mode! I know it well! ‘You want me to cross that stream, two inches deep? Now way pal. I’m a donkey… Build a bridge for me. I may declare the bridge unsafe and not cross that either. My prerogative. I’m a donkey…’

    Yes Kathy, these are disgracefully fat donks. What to do about it? That is the question…

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