Do Donkeys Eat Meat? (8 Surprising Facts)

Donkeys don’t typically eat meat. But to rule it out of their diets completely can be a little short-sighted. This article takes a look at 10 surprising facts about the role animal protein can play in a donkey’s world.

Let’s get started.

Do Donkeys Eat Meat?

Donkeys are hay lovers. They’re not known to eat meat. But that doesn’t mean they’ve never been witnessed chomping down on animal flesh.

1. Donkey’s Don’t “Usually” Eat Meat

Bill Hitchcock, writing at, is a keen camper who’s claimed to have witnessed a wild donkey eating squirrel meat. “They stole a freshly shot squirrel that I had just skinned in camp”, he writes.

How reliable his testimony is however is a point of debate. Even Bill admits this himself; “I don’t think he really ate it maybe just got some of the juices from it.”

As it doesn’t seem like he did much verifying, we can probably chalk this one up to being possible rather than definitive.

Squirrel eating donkey stories are certainly hard to come by!

2. Donkey’s Might Eat Meat Unintentionally

Where squirrel-eating donkey stories seem scarce, there is some evidence of them eating other forms of meat. Most of the time it seems its unintentional however.

These stories mention donkeys being “trained” to eat meat after being offered it by humans. And never eating a live or dead animal.

As for the meat some people claim to have spotted donkeys eating? It’s the foodstuffs that are barely recognisable as other animals; things like hot dogs, hamburgers and spaghetti with meat sauce.

Even vegetarians can sometimes be tricked into eating some of these things.

3. Horses Have Been Known to Sometimes Eat Meat

More proof that donkeys might sometimes eat meat is the dramatic revelation that horses sometimes do. As they’re closely related, it’s not too hard to make the assumption.

CuChullaine O’Reilly’s book ‘Deadly Equines, The Shocking True Story of Meat-Eating and Murderous Horses’ is all about that. The book details the story of one horse, Bucephalus, allegedly being fed raw meat. It’s also suggested Bucephalus got a taste of it genetically, being born to a meat-eating mare.

Although the book doesn’t talk explicitly about donkeys it’s not too hard to imagine, out of all the millions that have ever existed, that one or two might have done the same.

Are Donkeys Carnivores?

Donkeys are classified as herbivores, meaning they only eat plants. But as we’ve already estabilished, that might not strictly be true.

4. Donkeys Flat Teeth Makes Meat Eating Difficult

One of the reasons donkeys (like other equines) are grouped as herbivores is their famously flat teeth. Lacking razor sharp incisors like those of many predators, it would be hard for them to rip and tear flesh in order to comfortably swallow.

This could be one of the reasons why some claim to have seen donkeys eating softer meats or skinned meats. Both require much less chewing and are a lot easier to get down.

But that’s assuming they wouldn’t first spit it out!

5. Donkeys Digestive Systems Are Unsuitable for Meat

The donkey digestive system is much longer than that of most carnivores. It’s designed for slow food passage and to extract all the key nutrients from plants and hay that the animals need to survive and thrive.

Whether this gives donkeys an inclination to avoid meat, knowing it’s likely to give them gastrointestinal problems, is hard to say. But there might be some kind of instinctual avoidance at play.

Do Donkeys Eat Each Other?

Donkeys aren’t known to stalk and hunt each other down but that doesn’t mean it’s never happened.

6. There Is No Known Case Of a Donkey Eating Another Donkey

As far as the internet goes, there is no documented case of a donkey eating its own kind. It’s practically unheard of in any other form of media or historical record either.

Whether that’s because donkeys simply don’t like the taste of their own flesh (or just prefer other meat) remains to be seen.

I’m fairly certain it’s down to the fact they’re herbivores!

7. A Donkey Might Eat Another Donkey In Extreme Circumstances

Just like humans, when faced with the impossible task of having nothing else to eat, have had to turn to cannibalism, donkeys could too if pushed far enough.

Of course imagining them to ever be in a place without any kind of plantlife growing seems very far fetched.

Perhaps we should run some kind of experiment with them on Mars…

What Happens to a Donkey If It Eats Meat?

The short answer; nothing good. They simply haven’t evolved to eat it. Meaning they could get sick or worse.

8. Meat Could Poison A Donkey

One thing that could result from a donkey eating meat is acute poisoning thanks to toxins produced by bacteria. As they have no natural immunity to this, due to having evolved from eating plant-based foods, they’d be susceptible.

Not being able to vomit would force the toxins to be ingested and affect internal organs.

Final Thoughts: Should You Feed A Donkey Meat?

It’s definitely not a good idea to feed a donkey meat. Although there might be incidences where they could take it, it’s certainly not good for them long term.

The cases above are also anecdotal at best. Even if a donkey could physically eat meat doesn’t mean it ever will!

It’s a very rare thing indeed.

Image Credit: @timmossholder at Unsplash

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