If you look into the eyes of a donkey, you can read his entire life’s story. These sensitive and intelligent animals have a kind, sweet nature and willingly adapt to our ways. For centuries, people have referred to donkeys as “stubborn,” but the truth is they have a strong sense of self-preservation and wisely prefer to do what is best for the donkey, and not necessarily always what their owners want them to do. They are laid back, sociable and a great hit with children.


Throughout history, donkeys have been used as low-level workers, pulling carts and wagons and as pack animals in the mountains and mines. Today, they are still used for hauling, carrying and pulling carts, although many have been turned loose in the wild to fend for themselves. They can live up to 40 years and their bray can be heard by another donkey over 60 miles away.


Many donkeys are used as guard animals and can take care of an entire herd of cattle, sheep or goats. A donkey will severely discourage any canine attacks on the herd. Although donkeys and dogs usually don’t mix, they can sometimes learn to tolerate each other.


The American Standard Donkey evolved from several breeds brought into the United States from France, Greece, Italy and other countries. All donkeys are direct descendants of the Great African Wild Ass. They generally stand between 36” and 54” tall. Almost all donkeys bear the markings of a cross on their back that runs down their spine and crosses their shoulders onto their legs…


Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, lowly and riding on a donkey

As Jesus triumphantly rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday over 2,000 years ago, it was on the back of a humble donkey. In Numbers 22:21-34, we read the story of Balaam’s donkey who saw the Angel of the Lord even when her rider didn’t see Him. The Bible is filled with stories of how these special animals were used by servants of God.


Matthew was born in a herd of wild burros in Nevada in 1996. Wild burros are descendants of the donkeys who escaped from Spanish explorers and American prospectors and settlers. When Matthew was about a year old, he was caught in a round up by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the government agency that has jurisdiction over wild horses and burros. Confused, frightened and separated from his parents and friends, he was herded onto a trailer and shipped to Virginia to be adopted.


At that time, the BLM made captured wild horses and burros available to anyone who wanted them for a flat fee. Adopters selected their animals on a first-come, first-serve basis. Laura Nelson of Middleburg, Virginia, went to the adoption to rescue a mustang. When she made eye contact with little Matthew, who was dirty, dejected and defiant in a pen, she couldn’t resist and took him home with her, too. He got good food, soft words and was able to watch all the horses on the farm being gently handled and ridden. For one week he remained wild and untouchable. Then one day he simply decided not to be wild anymore. He let himself be touched and petted and groomed. He figured out how to walk on a lead line pretty much by himself, with the help of a few carrots. He got used to having his feet handled and discovered how nice it is to lean his head on a person’s shoulder and get his ears rubbed.

Height: 43” Weight: 525 lbs Color: grey Sex: Gelding


Nicholas is a Sicilian donkey, a breed of domestic donkeys originally imported to America from Italy, although he is probably not purebred. Nick was born in Virginia and Laura purchased him at a Virginia livestock auction when he was about ten months old to be a companion for Matthew. Nick and Matthew have been “best buddies” and constant companions for almost their entire lives.


Sicilian donkeys are known for their sweet dispositions and have been used throughout history as pack animals and for transportation. They are often used as rehabilitation animals for the disabled because of their kindheartedness, caution, and bravery. It is said that Mary and Joseph rode a Sicilian donkey the night Jesus was born. The Sicilian Donkey is listed as a WATCH animal under the conservancy of America Livestock Breeds, meaning there are less than 2,500 in North America and less than an estimated 10,000 global population.

Height: 41” Weight: 650 lbs Color: brown Sex: Gelding


We are grateful that Laura has entrusted her friends to us here on the ranch. We look forward to giving them a chance to know the people of this community as they wander the lane ways of the farm and say “hee-haw hello” to everyone who visits us.