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Burros as Guard Dogs on the Farm


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This is the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT.

A burro is a small donkey. Donkeys are related to horses; both are part of the equine family. Another way people say it is BOOR-oh. The name comes from Spanish and, before that, from a Latin term for small horse.

Burros reach an average height of over a meter and can weigh more than two hundred twenty-five kilograms. The long-eared animals are often gray with white noses, jaws and undersides. But they can also have coats of red or blue.

Burros are known for their sure footing on mountains while carrying heavy loads. In the United States, they are best known for their history as pack animals in the desert Southwest. In fact, burros in the wild are related to pack animals that ran away or were freed by gold miners and others.

But burros are not only good pack animals. They can also help calm and control nervous horses and guard sheep and goats on farms. Robin Rivello works with the New Jersey chapter of the American Mustang and Burro Association. She says burros have protected farm animals even against bears.

People may have the idea that burros and donkeys do not like being told what to do. But experts say the animals are not being stubborn; they just like to take their time considering what they will do.

In the United States, there are breeders who raise and sell burros. Or Americans can buy a burro taken from the wild by a federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management.

People who get a wild burro need to "gentle" the animal. "Gentling" means training it to accept the human attention needed for care and grooming.

Burros like to clean each other. But these desert animals groom themselves with dust instead of water. So it is normal for a burro to have some dirt in its coat. A brush can remove hardened mud.

Experts like Robin Rivello advise owners not to let their burros eat too much. Being fat can ruin their health. Overweight burros can also develop a condition that threatens their well-known walking ability.

Robin Rivello says a burro's feet should be cleaned and cared for every six to eight weeks. But she warns owners not to raise the feet as high as with a horse. A burro's legs differ from a horse's legs. The pain could make the burro kick.

And that's the VOA Special English AGRICULTURE REPORT, written by Jerilyn Watson. Transcripts, MP3s and podcasts of our reports are at voaspecialenglish.com. I'm Jim Tedder.


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