Buying A Donkey In New Zealand
Donkeys often live into their 30s so they are a fairly long term commitment. We have several breeds of donkeys in NZ and the people who own them absolutely love them. Starting with the smallest breed we have American Mediterranean Miniatures, then we have English/Irish Donkeys, Australian Teamsters and the American Mammoth Donkeys. There is currently no breeding of Australian Teamsters or American Mammoth Donkeys in NZ. We also have Ponui Island donkeys which come from Ponui Island which has been a closed herd since the mid 1880’s. These donkeys were imported from Australia originally.
Before purchasing a donkey know what you want to do with it. Do you want to breed donkeys, ride donkeys, drive your donkey in harness with a cart, show your donkey at A & P shows or have a couple as pets? This will help you decide how much you wish to spend on your donkey and what other items will be required.
If you are wanting to breed donkeys, a chat with a stud breeder will be a good start as keeping a jack (entire male) is not for the beginner. Donkeys for breeding and showing will be the very best specimens of any donkey breed and will cost more, as they are usually purebred stud stock and will come with a registration certificate which states their breed and parentage often back many generations. While they will cost a little more, if you ever wish to sell your donkey/s they will also sell for a better price as people know their age, bloodlines and where they originated from. Usually these donkeys are either microchipped and/or branded so they are also traceable.
Geldings (castrated jack) make wonderful pets, riding donkeys and harness donkeys. Geldings can also be shown at A & P shows if they are registered with the Donkey and Mule Society. Quality gelded weanlings start at around $2.000.
Jennies (female donkey) make wonderful pets, riding donkeys, harness donkeys and can also be bred from. They will often cost more especially if they are of breeding age. Quality jenny weanlings start around $2,500.
Jacks (entire male) do not make a good pet however they can be trained for riding and harness but are unpredictable and therefore unsafe in the wrong hands. A jack is driven by his hormones and can become dangerous in the blink of an eye. If you are ever offered a jack and it is under the age of 2 years (take a breeder with you who can check out its teeth) by all means purchase it if you can geld it straight away and it ticks all your other requirements. Purchasing an ungelded young jack which is probably unregistered too will cost around $400-$500 and allow another $450 to geld by a vet.
Always go and meet the donkey you are intending to purchase. Never ever buy it sight unseen. If possible, take someone with you who knows donkeys and is experienced with them.
When you meet the donkey it should be easy to catch and you should be able to pick up all four feet. It should be able to be haltered, groomed, happy to be lead and also walk onto a float nicely. Usually donkeys love people and will love to come you looking for pats and food treats in the paddock. If the donkey being viewed does not do this, they often have not been well handled so walk away unless you are experienced and love a challenge.
Ask the seller lots of questions about the donkey you are intending to purchase. They should be able to tell you about any behavioural traits (always good to know if you have a donkey that can undo their tie up rope), their history of what they have done - like attending shows, their training and handling and if there are any health problems. The seller will also be able to inform you of their worming, dentistry, and hoof trimming programme.
Be prepared to walk away if the donkey is not suitable for your level of experience. An experienced donkey person will help to be your guide in what they think is a good fit for you as they will want you to have fun with your donkey and do so safely.
Donkeys that are registered will have their paperwork transferred to you. When you purchase your donkey the vendor will sign transfer paperwork that states you are the new owner. The seller pays for the transfer of ownership. If this paperwork is not forthcoming do not hand over any money until you have checked out the details of the donkey with the Donkey and Mule registrar. This could save you quite a bit of money. A donkey must also be as described. If it is sold as a purebred donkey it will have the papers to match and the cost will reflect this. Any donkey in NZ can be registered with the Society but it will be registered on the General Register which allows for showing and if it is a jenny this can be a good start if you ever intend to breed.
The Donkey and Mule Society of NZ has breed registers for all the breeds of donkeys available in NZ so if your donkey is registered they will be able to inform you of its history including age and where it originated from.