Donkeys Separate

Listen to “Donkeys Separate.” Prose.

The miniature donkeys, Chippo and Ziggy arrived as yearlings to the farm in 2012.  They were sold as a bonded pair.  Bonded in equines means fast buddies, a team that stays together while grazing, a team that grooms each other, plays together, and feels distress when separated. Normally a pair bond lasts a lifetime.

In January 2020 we discovered a sarcoid skin tumor on Ziggy’s sheath.  The tumor grew from an insect sized bite to baseball-like very quickly. We decided to treat aggressively, and we had a vet give Ziggy four chemotherapy injection treatments under anesthesia over a period of five months. During the second treatment in March, the tumor was surgically removed. Right after the surgery we noticed a change of behavior in Chippo.  He started pinning his ears and squealing at Ziggy. We had to separate them to keep Ziggy safe and to allow him time to recover from surgery.  The surgery wound healed quickly, but the relationship between Ziggy and Chippo did not return to the easy going and close friendship they once had.

We noticed an underlying irritation between the donkeys all the time, and often this tension would break out into a full-on fight. Chippo always gained the upper hand, because he is the more powerful donkey—though Ziggy had been the lead donkey before his illness.

By October problems had escalated, and Chippo was actively trying to hurt Ziggy by biting him in the neck. This resulted in open neck wounds, and it became apparent the donkeys needed to be permanently separated.

We believe the relationship between the donkeys changed because of Ziggy’s illness, and possibly because of the chemicals that were added to Ziggy’s system during chemotherapy.  Ziggy was weakened and Chippo sensed this.  Illness and weakness make prey animals more vulnerable to predation, and sometimes weaker animals are left or pushed out of the herd.  Although we don’t see any return of the cancer, and prognosis is good, it is possible Ziggy is still ill. We may never know the exact cause for this pair bond to be broken.

Several days ago, Chippo returned to the farm where he and Ziggy were born, and now Ziggy is our sole donkey. Chippo has other donkeys near him, horses, and goats—plus a home he likely remembers.  The old saying goes–donkeys never forget, and we have found this to be true in our experiences with these donkeys over the past eight years.

 Ziggy has a new friend who has come to the farm to live with him.  His name is Moses, and I will tell you more about him soon.

Chippo returns to the farm where he and Ziggy were born nine years ago.

By A-Woven-Basket

9 replies on “Donkeys Separate”

Oh how interesting and difficult for you. I’ve heard of changes in animals due to illness etc but my experience with donkeys is zero. I look forward to hearing more about Moses and Ziggy as they learn from each other.


How strange and amazing. I have not before heard of a donkey pair-bond being broken except by uncaring humans or by death of one partner. Poor Ziggy !
I’m glad Chippo has gone back to base – i wonder if he will fit in at his old level or become more bossy now?
I am closely watching our two stallions, Pierre and Sammy, as Sammy, who is the boss, has developed a neurological problem that has left him wobbly at the back. So far he is still the boss but reading your post I wonder if that will change? I would be very sad if Pierre turned on him, I think it unlikely but reading your post, who knows?
Have you thought of sending your story to our Donkey Sanctuary ? They are interested in the relationships between donkeys so it could be valuable to them.
Greetings from us all in Clovelly and Good Wishes for the New Year !
I’m on facebook as Susan Clovelly and have been writing a donkey diary since the June coronavirus lockdown on my page Clovelly Donkey Activities.


Sue– great to hear from you; I hoped you might see this post. I have spoken to two women who between than have almost 80 years of experience rescuing and breeding and working with donkeys. A broken pair bond is very rare, but it happens. So far Ziggy seems to be adjusting well. I had the donkeys totally separated for 14 days before Chippo went away, so they had some time to get used to this. But, it hasn’t even been one week yet, so it is too early to tell how well Ziggy will adjust. We are very active here- outside all the time even in winter, and Ziggy has lots of support here. I have not thought about sharing the story with the donkey sanctuary. I would be interested to know if any similar changes have occurred because of chemotherapy.


Hi ! I do love reading about your lives, yours sounds such a lovely place. I hope those ‘orrible mules next door are gone now !
Yes I would be interested too. The sanctuary must have plenty of experience of chemotherapy since they have the biggest vet hospital dedicated to donkeys in the whole country, if not the world. I would think they are in touch with a network of vets too. Also they have made a big effort to educate vets about the importance of pair bonds to donkeys so that owners get told what to do before one of the pair dies , if possible, not after.
I shall watch out for your news.
My guess is that if Ziggy is not pining now he isn’t going to and his relationship with the new donkey will be a start from square one affair. It will be interesting to see if he ends up as boss or follower. As you say it could be he is still poorly in some way, either from the sarcoid or the chemotherapy. it would be valuable to work out if the chemotherapy has lasting effect so that people can use the info as part of deciding whether to have such treatment. Vets too. All treatments carry some risk so its important to be able to assess it.
You would think Chippo would pine too since he previously relied on Ziggy for leadership. Their relationships are as complex as ours !
Your boys are lucky they have such a thoughtful and caring owner. I’m sure you will miss chippo too.
I hope you don’t think badly of Chippo ? Nature has arranged that if there is no leader one must emerge from somewhere. He is just doing what insticnt demands. He cant help it any more than my Sammy can stop himself attacking Pierre because he’s afraid of Rupert (another long story !). I guess nature is not a soppy as us humans.
Best wishes and I’ll look out for your news,


Hi Sue– I had months to explore and better understand what types of instincts might be at play with Chippo, so I have been at peace with this — it is just the way it is and what happened. We looked closely at the environment to see if there might be increased predator threat or change in food, or…, but in the end- the change was in Ziggy- his illness, surgery, and chemotherapy. Thanks for commenting and again, so good to hear from you.


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