Sicilian Donkeys Get New Home in Texas

Raising Sicilian donkeys is a delight for small farms, as these miniature animals are self-sufficient and easy to care for and make wonderful companion animals.

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by Carol Mowdy Bond
PHOTO: Carol Mowdy Bond

A pastor’s wife, Kiki welcomed her first two Sicilian donkeys in December 2020. “I got them because they’re so cute,” Kiki says. “My husband helped a family with numerous issues, and they raised Sicilian donkeys. At one point, the family had to get rid of the donkeys, and they brought us two. A few months later, they asked if we wanted four more, which we took. And four months later, our first baby donkey, Magnolia, was born. Three months later our second baby, Daisy, was born.”

As small donkeys that aren’t aggressive, Kiki says her Sicilians are family friendly, very hardy and low maintenance. But the donkeys can be spooked. So visitors, especially children, need to remain calm and talk softly when around them.

shows the calm nature of the Sicilian Donkey
Carol Mowdy Bond

Kiki does very little donkey grooming. In fact, her donkeys groom each other. The donkeys attract livestock flies, and she gives them dewormer. They also require hoof care. But for the most part, the donkeys are self-sufficient.

“You can’t own just one because they’re very social,” Kiki says. “They have to be with another hoofed animal. And they can’t be boxed into a stall. To protect them from cold and rain, they need a shelter with a roof and at least one open side.”

But Kiki’s concerns include Texas storms. Her donkeys find shelter under big trees instead of their farm structure. A few years back, lightning struck a tree and killed one of her donkeys. As well, one of the family horses kicked one of the donkeys, which led to the donkey’s demise.

“Sicilians are born with crosses on their backs,” Kiki says. “As babies, they’re all ears. They’re the best thing anybody who has property, who wants livestock to love on, can have.”

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Sicilian Donkey drinks water
Carol Mowdy Bond

About 15 years ago, Kiki owned a horse. But that was the extent of her agricultural experiences. She and her husband now live on 30 acres. Besides the donkeys, they own three miniature horses, chickens and a zebu bull. The donkeys have access to 15 acres.

The donkeys enjoy a necessary and constant water supply with a tank that refills itself. As for mealtime, Sicilians thrive in grasslands and brush lands. Because they are miniatures, they need less forage and space. During summer months, when there’s grass, Kiki’s donkeys graze all day, and she gives them hay at day’s end. But when there is no pasture grass, she feeds them twice daily.

“I love, love, love my donkeys,” Kiki says. “They’re great for a mini farm. I just come out here and spend time with them. This is my happy place. They come running to me like puppy dogs. They’re very smart, they don’t forget, and they’re very healthy.”

History of Sicilian Donkeys

Historians differ, with some claiming Sicilian donkeys were native to North Africa before arriving on the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia. They thrive in hot, dry conditions, rather than wet and cold environments. In Italy, they hauled produce for thousands of years. Owners often want them for their working abilities. Sicilians may pull a cart, may carry up to 100 pounds, and small children may ride on their backs. But overloading a Sicilian can cause injury to its back.

However, Sicilians are also popular as companion animals, including as pets. But experts recommend that Sicilians not live inside homes because they need to graze freely, and they are active which makes for needed exercise. Two miniature donkeys need at least one acre of land, plus appropriate shelter.

Sicilian Donkey pair shows how you should have more than one donkey as they are companion animals
Carol Mowdy Bond

Traits, Size & Appearance

Known as tame, gentle, loving and friendly, Sicilians can be playful and entertaining. They’re one of the most affectionate and friendliest of all donkey breeds, and they seek attention from human companions. They bond well with family members and most visitors. In captivity, they may live up to 40 years. So, owning Sicilians requires a long-term commitment, as well as responsibility for their daily needs, which may take hours of daily time.

They may weigh up to 450 pounds and grow to be 36 inches tall. Coat colors fall into the gray, black, white and brown families.

A docile breed, Sicilians are easy to manage due to their size. They usually get along well with other farm animals, as well as dogs and cats, and they sometimes form close bonds with other animals.

Known as the miniature Mediterranean donkey and Sardinian donkey, Sicilians carry the nickname of “The Holy Cross Donkey” because of the distinct cross on the donkeys’ backs. Legends claim the donkey breed carried Jesus of Nazareth into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. The donkey loved Jesus, and later followed him to Calvary. Grief stricken at Calvary, the donkey turned away but didn’t leave. The shadow of the cross fell on the donkey’s shoulders and back, and it remains there today.