Morris finds his voice

Yesterday, to my great surprise, little Morris let out his first bray! The two and a half months old donkey foal, who is still little bigger than a large dog, let out a short but quite loud bray.

Matilde is the only one I have heard braying and it has happened very rarely. Matilde has brayed two or three times when I was walking with her before the foals were born, and it was usually on the occasion of hearing another donkey braying in the distance or picking up a donkey scent. She has also kicked up a fuss with occasional braying when Rubi goes out for a walk and she has to remain.

My friend Cait comes over to help walk the donkeys on Saturday mornings and after we returned Matilde and Aitana to the field, I heard braying it but assumed it was Matilde. Cait was next to the donkeys and she said it was definitely Morris. It was a much louder bray than this diminutive foal might seem capable of, so I was not convinced. This morning, however, as I took the feed to them and Matilde was doing her usual impatient snorting and salivating at the sight of food, Morris lifted up his head and curled back his top lip to expose his teeth and let out a distinct two-note bray. I have a feeling that this will soon be a loud little donkey!

It would be good to capture this on video soon and put the Morris braying on the blog soon. Obviously, Morris will not bray to order, so it will be a matter of keeping my i-Phone handy at moments like feed time when this is likely to be repeated.

Interested in the question of braying, I did a search on the Internet. The first reference I found was an Islamic scripture Question and Answer site Somebody, for reasons best known to themselves, was asking about interruptions during prayer time… “If a person hears a donkey braying, should he say “A’oodhu Billaahi min al-Shaytaan il-rajeem (I seek refuge with Allaah from the accursed Shaytaan)?” The answer to this question was authoritatively provided: “With regard to seeking refuge with Allaah from the accursed Shaytaan when hearing a donkey braying (whilst one is praying), there is no report in the Sunnah to that effect.”

So, whoever the accursed Shaytaan may be, you now know that you don’t have to seek refuge from him when you hear a donkey braying, but we are no nearer an answer to the question, what makes a donkey bray?

Here is the sound That’s a good clear example and there are a number of them on YouTube: just search donkey bray. Here’s my favourite:

A very interesting comparison of horse, donkey and zebra can be found on The Naked Scientist website Zebra and donkey have a similar hiccup pause in their sound, which isn’t too surprising as they are closely related, but the interesting comment here is that the sound has not been scientifically analysed.

That ever popular first or last resort Wikipedia has an excellent article on donkeys and suggests the following about braying: “Braying is the characteristic sound made by an ass, donkey, and most mules. Donkeys use this sound to communicate and will bray more frequently when a new donkey is encountered. The sound typically lasts for twenty seconds.” Then, in typical Wikipedia muddle, the following two sentences are very intriguing: “Donkeys may be trained to bray or not to bray upon command. This may be used as a form of mockery.” (Mock the donkey by training it to bray, or training it not to bray? Surely it would be mocking the donkey if you trained it to sing ‘We Three Kings of Orient Are?’)

So, it appears no serious analysis of braying is available. There is an ancient Egyptian painting of a donkey carrying a very huge load. Its mouth is open and it is probably braying.

Additional video at the end of the day. I filmed Morris and Aitana in the evening light playing together. Aitana tends to dominate Morris, and this reflects the way her mother Matilde dominates Morris’s mother Rubi. I wonder if there is a correlation?

UPDATE TUESDAY 20th December

Two m ore school days and then a two week Christmas break. I need it! Very tired at the end of this term. My aim is to get a video with sound of Morris braying, as soon as I can. I will be planting onions, potatoes and other winter crops, so will be in the field all day for a few days. Let’s hope I can catch little Morris singing!

Since he started braying this week, my hunch is that he is singing the traditional ‘Great O’ antiphons ready for Christmas.


About Gareth Thomas

After a mixed career as an aircraft technician, London fringe theatre playwright, Franciscan friar, and secondary school teacher, I find myself dividing my time mostly between looking after the needs of four donkeys in a remote location in the mountains in the Costa Blanca and preparing a legal case against the corrupt management of my monstrous last employer - the Elians group - for unfair dismissal. I like to hear the wind in the pine trees. I do not like struggling to get a duvet into a duvet cover. My musical tastes are extinct and I have mostly given up cycle racing.
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6 Responses to Morris finds his voice

  1. Barbara says:

    That’s interesting. My Mr Muley (Filou) neighs like a horse when he has something to say, which is not very often, Dalie and Rosie are much more vocal, especially when hungry.

  2. A. Navarro says:

    Perhaps you could train Morris to do some angelic braying at the Belén on Christmas eve? Some nice Christmas motets by Poulenc to train artistic donkeys:

    Merry Christmas!

  3. Hey Nonny No says:

    Shaytan = Satan. Simples!

  4. Frere Rabit says:

    Aha! Thank you, HeyNonnyNo. That is so obvious I must be stupid not to have connected it…

  5. alys thomas says:

    Oh, how I miss the foals and all the donkeys greatly! I do remember observing the foals together and always having a sense that Aitana was the ‘older sister’ of the two. I had to keep reminding myself that she was actually born the day after Morris! Morris seems quite happy though and he is certainly leading the way with braying practice! I can just imagine the mad parrot squawk! Hopefully, Aitana will find her voice soon and you’ll awake on Christmas morning to a full choral braying… Happy Christmas! xxx

  6. Frere Rabit says:

    Thank you! Donkey Santa hats coming up shortly!

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