Donkeys do the darndest things.
Just like children, American Mammoth Jackstock donkeys have their own personalities. Gus, for instance, is a “watchdog” donkey. If he thinks another donkey – or sheep, dog or pig – has been out to pasture long enough, he’ll go out and usher them back to the stable.
Jan, on the other hand, is more of a ‘guard dog’ donkey – she’s a constant companion for her owner Audrey Cadle, and makes a good sheep shepherd.
Cadle is the breeder and owner of Donkey Meadows in Purcellville, a business she started late last year to raise and eventually sell the donkeys.
She has six: Two geldings (neutered males); and four female jennies – all of which are pregnant. Three of the jennies are for sale: Bella is $2,500; Jan is $1,250; and Madonna is $3,000.
American Mammoth Jackstock donkeys are not your average donkey.
They’re the height of an average horse – standing as tall as 15 hands, or 59 inches. Their ears alone shoot 12 inches into the air. They weigh 1,000 pounds or more and can carry one quarter of their body weight – up to a 250-pound man.
The three pregnant jennies are carrying foals that will each tip the scale at nearly 100 pounds when they are born in September.
Cadle doesn’t give riding lessons, and she doesn’t show the donkeys in contests. But her kids and their friends enjoy riding them, and they’ve strutted their stuff in many local parades, including the upcoming Fourth of July parade in Purcellville.
“People love them because they’re something different,” she said.
She’s hoping that what she loves about them – companionship, unconditional love and a calm, peaceful riding experience – will attract the attention of potential buyers.
They’re a fight, not flight, animal, she said. Unlike horses, the donkeys hardly ever spook. If Cadle and Gus are out on a ride and he encounters a situation he’s uncomfortable with, he will stand there and determine how he feels about it before moving forward. He once jumped four feet so he wouldn’t have to touch a small puddle, but after that he was fine.
Cadle thinks the donkeys’ affinity to confronting situations is because they are desert animals. Desert terrain is uncertain, so the donkeys know that fleeing could be more harmful than confronting a potential danger, she said.
Nine years ago, Cadle and her husband Mike bought their first jenny so they could scale the mountains while hunting on their Winchester property. Cadle said she rode that jenny bareback – without a pad, bit or halter – and never got bucked.
Cadle compares the donkey’s personalities to dogs.
“Donkeys love and crave the human’s touch,” she said.
They follow her, begging to be petted, and they’re always asking for a treat. The jennies are moody and don’t play. But the geldings pick up their toy cones and run around with them, sometimes chasing each other. They’re always up for a game of tug-of-war with swimming-pool noodles.
Just like a couple of dogs in her back yard.