Unless you're in the breeding business, there is no upside and a lot of risk for keeping an intact male donkey, or jack. Donkey jacks are dangerous because they're unpredictable. You might think you have the sweetest jack donkey in the world, who'd never harm anyone -- until he does, swiftly and unexpectedly. If you have a nice donkey jack, it's a good bet he'd make an even better donkey gelding.
Colt to Jack
Most donkeys are weaned from their mothers at about the age of 6 months. According to the American Donkey and Mule Society, some donkey colts exhibit aggressive, breeding-related behavior. By the age of 1 year, they can sire foals, even though they don't completely mature physically until the age of 2. If you keep jennies, or female donkeys, don't pasture them with donkey colts past the age of weaning. You're likely to end up with a surprise foal.
Even if your jack appears calm and reasonable -- and many are -- he's got hormones that strongly influence his behavior. According to Saddle Mule News, some of the jacks that have attacked people or pets, occasionally fatally, were reported to have "very nice dispositions" and were "very easy to handle." A jack might attack his longtime owner, with whom he has previously had a good relationship, completely out of the blue but with fierce intent. This unpredictability is one reason the ADMS doesn't allow youngsters to show jacks in its organization's events.
If you decide to keep a donkey jack, management is key. Unless you are breeding him, keep him away from jennies or horse mares. If you've got more than one jack, they require separate paddocks and strong fencing. Keep to a strict routine. Some documented attacks by previously placid jacks occurred when there were changes in management, such as the move to a new stall or field. When working with a jack, never turn your back on him.
For best results, castrate your jack donkey before the age of 2. Donkey colts can be gelded at 6 months of age, just prior to weaning. If you've acquired an older jack, that doesn't mean he can't be gelded, but he's more likely to bleed more than a younger animal after the surgery. It's best that the castration takes place in the winter, early spring or late fall, before fly season kicks in. You don't want to take the chance that flies will lay eggs in the incision. The entire castration procedure takes less than an hour and your donkey should recuperate completely within two weeks.
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Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.