New Forest Donkeys and a Taste for Freedom

New Forest Donkeys and a Taste for Freedom

new forest donkeys

Here we are in the New Forest in Hampshire, south east England, on a last-minute weekend escape to the countryside from bustling Brighton and hectic London. The fact that I know there are donkeys here has absolutely nothing to do with it (well, maybe a bit)…

new forest donkeys

In fact, I really haven’t planned this too well and we don’t even make it to the known donkey hotspots, but we come across these guys and sweep into the car park. We seem to arrive at nap time…



The New Forest is a unique landscape made up of over 200 square miles of ancient woodland, lowland heaths and grassland, and more than 40 miles of coastline. The region is known for its forest trails, rare wildlife and free-roaming animals. A working forest, the area is looked after by local residents, known as commoners.

Commoners own land and property in and around the forest which comes with a range of special privileges attached, including the right to graze stock on the open forest. The tradition dates back hundreds of years since before the time of King William 1st, who claimed the forest as a royal hunting ground in around 1079.

new forest pony
New Forest Pony Foal

Unlike the native New Forest Ponies, donkeys in the New Forest aren’t a special breed. However, they have made themselves well and truly at home, roaming free and enjoying unlimited access to their favourite hedgerows, trees and bushes all year round.

Along with the ponies, cattle, deer, pigs and other animals, their browsing and grazing keep the area from getting overgrown.

new forest donkeys

Donkeys in the New Forest are not wild, but nor are they tame. If you waltz up to them clutching bags of carrots and apples, expect to be chased all the way back to your car and possibly helped inside! There have been many instances of unsuspecting visitors, including young children, being pushed, bitten or kicked. You have been warned!


new forest donkeys

This is my best friend Madeline (long-suffering and resigned to the fact that wherever we go on holiday, we always have to find donkeys). No, we hadn’t read the small print yet, about not approaching the animals, but we were also disorganised enough not to have any food with us, so we managed to sneak a few strokes and scratches.

new forest donkeys

Grey donkey

Wild or not, New Forest donkeys are regulars at pubs and tea rooms in the area and have even been spotted in the vegetable aisle of the local supermarket. Despite their wholesome and varied natural diet, they are not above swiping your lunch, and while it might be tempting let them scoff a few chips, or finish off your friend’s entire meal while they’re in the loo, remember that human food can be dangerous for donkeys, so resist the urge to share!

Three donkeys


The New Forest – Donkeys

The New Forest – Commoning

New Forest Life

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Copyright 2019 Amy Swift
World Donkey Day

World Donkey Day

donkey rescue usa
Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue Acton CA, Photo: Christina Weyer

8th May is World Donkey Day!

Celebrating the enormous contribution that donkeys make to the world, and giving thanks to those who work tirelessly to improve the lives of working donkeys and rescue donkeys worldwide, those who provide enriching donkey hire and donkey therapy programmes, and anyone who gives donkeys a loving home.  

To enlarge this video, press play and then click on the word YouTube to watch on the Donkey Wise YouTube channel, where you can also subscribe and see future video posts!

Thank you to the following for contributing their donkey photos:

Donegal Donkey Sanctuary, Farmersfield Rest home for Elderly Donkeys, Egypt Equine Aid, Lucy’s Sanctuary for Holy Land Donkeys, Texas Miracle Ranch, Megan Hensley, Eselgarten Pondorf, Dyfi Donkeys, Blackberry Donkeys Donkey Hire, Wellground Miniature Donkeys, Les Minis de Durbuy, Sheila Gabrielson, Melody Daugherty, Jamie Scanlon-kanski, Jacqueline Kueffer Kyrouac, Spitalfields City Farm, The Flicka Foundation, Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, PrimRose Donkey Sanctuary, Diane Morris Neely, Shelly LaFountain and Rick Dawes.  

Copyright 2019 Amy Swift
Tink: the little donkey who dared to be different

Tink: the little donkey who dared to be different

Peaceful Valley donkey rescue

I am delighted to welcome one of my favourite writers, Jessica Anselment, to Donkey Time. Jess’s blog, A Donkumentary, with its magical and sometimes misty-eyed musings on donkeys, love and life, from her little ranch in Texas, instantly had me hooked. Her work has also been featured in Flash Fiction Magazine and ‘America’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction’.

In this special guest post, Jess tells us how she came to rescue Tink, a donkey with a difference, and how he inspired her to write her first children’s book, recently published by Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, the largest donkey charity in America… 

Read more

Donkey Time Blurtso Giveaway Competition

Donkey Time Blurtso Giveaway Competition

Blurtso the donkeyWelcome to the Donkey Time Blurtso Giveaway Competition!

Exclusive to Donkey Time! An exciting, one-time-only chance to win some very special prizes, courtesy of author, illustrator and creator of the adorable and philosophical webcomic character Blurtso the donkey, Alan Davison. Read more