In addition, dominance over other fully-sexed males becomes important to them, and they can engage in quite damaging fights with each other. A donkey with its ears back a lot of the time can be said to have an ill temper. In making this choice, the community of donkey owners must be very sure that it is preserving the most desirable characteristics possible. However well suited for a job, a donkey may not perform it well if it feels that the job separates it from its friend. Any animal which reproduces too young does not reproduce well, and its own health may be threatened. It is not noticeably true that castration itself changes a donkey's characteristics to being stouter in shape and slower in behaviour, although many people believe so.
Although a calm temperament might seem desirable, as nobody wants a donkey with a load on its back to run in fright, there is also the thought that, if such a donkey is regularly travelling in dangerous situations — where, for instance, there might be wild animals — then a quick response to danger can be an advantage after all. Apart from what is mentioned in the list of criteria above, a donkey's temperament can often be judged by the way its owner handles it, so good opportunities to observe this are necessary. If it is seen like this a lot of the time, then something is probably seriously wrong with it further signs of ill health are discussed later. Therefore it is necessary, in a community of donkeys, to choose about one out of every twenty males to remain uncastrated. Of course, less sexual excitement contributes to a reduction in excitability, but a castrated donkey can still be a very alert and responsive donkey, and will be more willing to work. One of the difficulties is that male donkeys, which keep their penises retracted when not in use, have on the outside of their penis sheath two little protrusions, like nipples, and these are in exactly the same position between their back legs as a female's udder, and a female udder, with two nipples, is also pretty small on a donkey, even when lactating. In making this choice, the community of donkey owners must be very sure that it is preserving the most desirable characteristics possible. Since all field operations require the strength to pull, and the pulling must be done by the chest or adjacent shoulders depending on the type of harness , with the legs providing the power and the back taking the vertical force, obvious physical characteristics here would be large size, wide and deep chest, straight back, straight and well-muscled legs. In a group of donkeys there will always be at least one which is trying to be leader, with or without the co-operation of the others. What is the best kind of donkey for carrying loads? Another desirable characteristic may be nimbleness, in negotiating narrow paths and rocks. It is not noticeably true that castration itself changes a donkey's characteristics to being stouter in shape and slower in behaviour, although many people believe so. If it is a fully sexed adult, however, its reproductive hormones can change its behaviour in undesirable ways. Also, it has two nipple-like projections which can be confusing. The only thing a castrated donkey cannot do, unfortunately, is reproduce its own good characteristics through breeding. However, since the animals will presumably be operating on roads that other vehicles use, a calm and unexcitable temperament is even more important. Training may change it, but not necessarily. For female foals and older donkeys it is enough to lift the tail and look; however, doing such intimate things within reach of an adult donkey's rear hoofs may be a bit of a risk! What is the best kind of donkey for pulling carts? A donkey can begin to reproduce before then, but this, too, is not desirable. Even if there are no males around, they will be restless and disobedient for several days at a time, about once every two months until finally and successfully impregnated. A donkey with its ears down, and usually its head down too, is feeling depressed and unwell. Females, especially the younger and older ones, which are still suckling their young do not seem to fall pregnant very easily, even though they may come on heat, so one to two years can elapse between deliveries. An alternative is to observe from behind when the tail is lifted: A donkey with its ears pointed forward is interested in what is happening and willing to participate. However, its willingness and patience are also factors, and in addition it must be able to stand still for long periods. Luckily donkeys lift their tails to flick at flies, to defecate and urinate and also when they are a bit excited , so if one is in the right position at the right time, and not too far away, one can do a bit of detecting then.
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