It seems us humans aren’t the only animals obsessed with skin care and looking good. Donkeys love grooming. Alongside trees and fence posts, it provides them with much needed relief from the itch of sweaty skin and insect bites and helps them shed their winter coats.
When I was a volunteer at a rescue centre, grooming was my favourite job. The donkeys would walk in willingly from the field, covered in varying degrees of mud and straw. Knowing exactly what was coming, they would line up neatly around the yard and stand perfectly still, waiting patiently for their turn.
As soon as I started brushing their coats they would fall into a kind of trance. Their heads would lower and their eyes would close as a deep relaxation set in. Well, who doesn’t enjoy a good massage?
But what about grooming as a bonding exercise? And, more importantly, what if you still can’t get to that hard to reach spot? Donkeys, as usual, have all the answers. There is such a thing as mutual grooming and, as Sue Weaver explains in her book, The Donkey Companion, it’s a favourite donkey pastime. However, just like people, donkeys have boundaries and, when it comes to close contact with others, there are certain rules:
“To initiate grooming, one donkey approaches a family member or friend with his neck slightly extended, ears forward and mouth slightly agape. Then he touches the intended partner’s neck. If the partner agrees, grooming commences; if not, the second donkey walks away or threatens to bite or kick. Mutual grooming sessions last anywhere from a few minutes to half an hour or more. To groom one another, two donkeys stand head to tail and nibble or bite each other’s necks, backs and rumps.”
So, mutual grooming is not something you do with just anyone. In fact, it often occurs between pairs of closely bonded donkeys, like Shaggy and Tinsel here. I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine…
Copyright 2016 Amy Swift