Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Talking Donkeys

This video of donkeys watching donkeys has been making the rounds on Facebook....

It is an interesting reaction.  I was curious to see how Ramsey and Emma would react so I tried it last weekend.  I was using my iPod rather then a laptop and Ramsey's initial reaction was to try and climb in my lap.  As I was juggling iPod, camera and a baby donkey, the video is a bit rough.  Interesting though and for those who want to hear what Ramsey's voice is like.....

I only tried it once and I don't think I would do it again.  Both Emma and Ramsey got quite agitated and were on high alert for the rest of the day.  I can speculate that the original donkey bray playing on the laptop is an alarm bray or that Emma felt that her baby was being threatened, but I really don't know.  I do know that Emma has at least four different brays that I have heard. She also has a number of other very soft noises that she makes that clearly have different meanings.  To my human ears, they are hard to differentiate, but watching how Ramsey responds to them, it is obvious that they are different and distinct.

Emma does not bray very often, but she clearly is trying to communicate something when she does.  One is an alarm or warning bray.  I heard this bray when I saw a fox in the pasture once and again when a couple of stray dogs wandered through.  Her second bray is aimed directly at me when she wants something specific from me.  I heard this bray fairly often last winter any time I was 4 nanoseconds late for breakfast, if she got cold and wanted her blanket on or if she just wanted attention.  I can't say that I always figured out exactly what she wanted me to do, but I know there was something specific she had in mind every time.

The third bray was one I heard in the first few days after she came here.  It was the searching, seeking, lost sound of a young donkey suddenly separated from her family and the only home she had ever known.  About a week after she came here and she started to settle in and be more relaxed, she stopped calling for her lost family.  However, right at this time, I heard a single bray that I hope to never, ever hear again.  It was a long, mournful, heartbreaking sound.  It was the sound of goodbye.

This last bray was not only very distinct, it was a very distinct event.  Some may argue that I am projecting my own thoughts onto her, but I don't believe that is true.   That moment was a turning point in Emma's acceptance of her new home and new friends and her behavior prior to and after that moment prove it.

I don't pretend to understand a donkey's language.  I can observe it and I think I get some of the more basic and obvious signals, but I have no doubt at all that there is much more that we just can't see or hear.  I like to think that someday we will learn how to listen. 


  1. Thank you for recording Ramsey's bray! To me, most brays I've heard sound like an alarm. Ramsey sounds like the baby he is. So many years left to be listening to and learning their language, Kris. What fun.

  2. I was wondering if the youtube bray was something a jack said. With the MBF donkeys, the jenny answerd right away, then the rest of them went into alarm mode too.
    I often wonder if donkeys can talk with each other in a voice we can't hear like elephants do. I often see them standing face to face, not moving for minutes, just as if they were haveing a conversation!

    1. I keep thinking the same thing. Emma makes a lot of very small noises, most I can barely hear. She seems to have a lot to say.

  3. I don't know which voice I enjoyed listening to more, your voice all tickled with Ramsey or Ramsey's.. :) Interesting, the first video with the two donkeys watching the one on the screen. The one donkey seemed to be trying to comfort or calm down the other one.

  4. The donkeys I know will bray as an alarm and if dinner is late. Emma braying for her family makes sense since donkeys make friends for life and are such sensitive animals. Good to know that it didn't take her very long to settle down.

  5. I have only heard one type of bray from Star so far. And that is the one when she wants attention, or I am late with feeding. I will pay more attention, and see if I can hear a difference. Nice observation..and that Ramsey, well he is just to cute for words!

  6. We have to try this too.
    I've been busy,lazy and have little problem with my I-photo,so nearly abandoned blogs.But I'll come back any time and have to try this. :)