I often refer to what I call the Urban Herd, a term loosely used to cover the numerous head of cattle that wander through the suburbs of our town to graze in open parks, on unmown grass verges as well as browsing the street trees. Woe betide you if they manage to get into your garden, for not much will be left after their visit!

Not all that many years ago it was unusual to see donkeys roaming around town. There are now, however, an increasing number of donkeys seen either on their own or in groups of between three and eight. As with the cattle, these all have owners and are collected now and then to pull a cart.

Mostly though they are left to fend for themselves. They manage for their natural diet is a varied one, consisting of grass, shrubs and leaves. Sadly, a number of donkeys have also learned to raid rubbish bins in the street and gather in large numbers on the set rubbish collection days when residents place their black bags on the pavements in the suburbs.

Recently there were several donkeys grazing in an open park.

It is natural that during this prolonged drought period, many residents have become concerned about the plight of these donkeys that are largely left to their own devices. All over town are people who place buckets or large basins of water outside their gates so that the donkeys can have access to water. A lot of people feed them carrots or apples and have taken to stroking or patting them if they can. Most donkeys are docile and respond well to this kind treatment.

According to our local Ratepayers Association, these resourceful animals are quick to identify where they are likely to find food and are prepared to walk a long distance to such locations. I met a woman battling to close her garden gate early one morning as two donkeys were doing their best to get into her garden. “I give them bunches of carrots every morning,” she told me. “They come here every morning to get carrots from me.” It is not surprising then that these particular donkeys make their way to where she lives.

This Association informs us that the owners of the donkeys – mostly from the poorer area of town – prefer their donkeys to graze on the commonage, an open grassland close to where they live. That is the official line anyway. It is difficult to believe that so many donkeys would willingly leave the natural pasture on the other side of town to wander through the suburbs where they congregate in the shade of trees. This seems like a pleasant pastoral scene you might think.

Even though most residents have learned to tolerate the periodic invasions from the Urban Herd – probably because there is no way of getting rid of the cattle – there are some who loathe the presence of donkeys. Some set their dogs on them, while others shout at them or go after them with garden rakes or brooms, sending the donkeys clip-clopping along the tarred streets until their pursuer gives up the chase. A local resident complained that donkeys had ‘devoured’ all his vegetables (did he leave his gate open?), while another complained that “donkeys also pee prodigiously”. To emphasise his point he commented that he was about to lodge a complaint about a blocked sewage pipe near his home “when I realised I was looking at, and smelling, a fresh donkey download streaming across the street.” At this another responded, “They seem ‘cute’ until they behave as if they were in the veld!” Excuse me, are donkeys meant to use discreet toilets in the suburbs?

The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, “Why?” and sometimes he thought, “Wherefore?” and sometimes he thought, “Inasmuch as which?” and sometimes he didn’t quite know what he was thinking about. A. A. Milne.



  1. This post sure pulls in a lot of points. I sympathize with those whose gardens have been trampled and eaten, but most of the time I am on the side of the animals. We live in the woods, and although we don’t have donkeys, we do have deer and plenty of smaller creatures, some of whom might be considered a nuisance. Our policy is not to harm or kill unless there is a direct threat. I’ve even given up on the war against the slugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely keep your gate closed and don’t feed the feral animals. I would not like ahead of feral cows or donkeys roaming around my garden. They would get run over in traffic. It would be awful to see them injured.


  3. I’m not quite sure where I stand on the issue of livestock in the suburbs. One the one hand I feel sorry for the animals; they didn’t ask to be “abandoned” and would no doubt have been in a terrible state of neglect had it not been for the kindness of the residents in their new haunts. On the other hand I am appalled at the owners absconding from their responsibility to care for their animals and I am terrified for the lives of innocent road users on the streets.


    • Livestock do not belong in the suburbs, Dries. We know that. That is why municipalities used to have pounds. They also do not belong on the national roads. There are new ways of doing things now as you know, and we have to adapt to them. Having railed against the arrival of livestock in our streets when they first wandered around, we have become used to their inevitable presence and have become more wary when travelling at night. This is a South African problem that will not simply go away. So, embrace them: I have come to appreciate the beauty of the cattle and the gentleness of the donkeys – much better than fuming about them 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ek is so bly die donkies kyk goed. Dit is nou maar eenmaal ‘n probleem, maar soos jy mooi verduidelik, ‘n mens pas aan daarby. Ons reis al jare deur Botswana en daar lyk meeste donkies erg verwaarloos. Die gevaar is natuurlik ook op die paaie, maar meeste mense daar reis nie snags nie, juis daaroor.


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