Research carried out by international equine welfare charity, The Brooke has discovered how donkeys behave when free from pain.

The study titled “Identifying behavioural differences in working donkeys in response to analgesic administration” was carried out by Brooke Pakistan and the University of Bristol this year.

It involved giving a single dose of proprietary oral anti-inflammatory drug to 20 donkeys suffering from common medical conditions including poor hoof quality, wounds and lameness.

A placebo was given to another 20 donkeys suffering from a similar range of medical conditions.

Before both groups were given their respective medicines they showed a range of behaviours including closing their eyes for long periods, dozing on their feet, and lowering their heads.

The donkeys that received the medication showed a decrease in all these behaviour traits and an increase in alertness afterwards.

“It is recognised that donkeys’ response to pain is different from horses and the behavioural traits they display can be more subtle, so it can be challenging to identify when they are in pain,” said Melissa Upjohn from the Brooke.

The study will help the charity train owners and community health service providers to more accurately recognise how donkeys act when they’re ill or injured.

Dr Becky Whay at the University of Bristol said: “Working horses and donkeys support the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest people. However, these animals are often overburdened and used for long hours in harsh conditions.”

She said she hoped the research “will make a difference to the lives of these animals and our work will advise owners and vets on how to better look after them.”

The Brooke works together with local communities to bring about lasting improvements to the lives of their working animals.

Las year it reached over 1.5m working horses, donkeys and mules; by 2016 it is on target to reach two million.

For more information visit www.thebrooke.org