Of all the animals on our farm, Daphne has been here the longest. She came on January 1, 2020, to be a companion for Ruth, the other rescue donkey who’d arrived just a few days earlier. We bought the two of them to be livestock guardians for our first two KuneKune pigs.
When my husband Houston was researching livestock guardians, he settled on donkeys for a couple of reasons. Unlike other equines, they stand their ground, not running away from danger. They also walk all over the land, leaving their scent, which is a deterrent for would-be predators.
When our sweet Ruth died, almost two years ago, we were advised to allow a few weeks for Daphne to mourn before introducing a new companion. We were grateful to find what we hoped would be a new best friend for Daphne. Maizie was a miniature donkey, and oh, so gentle. During the purchase, the former owner asked us to take her weaned colt with us as well. We named him Ollie. They were adorable, but inseparable. Mama Maizie wouldn’t let Daphne get near Ollie. This went on for two weeks until Maizie died suddenly. We believe she must have had colic - an abdominal ailment that is often fatal in equines. Daphne then became Ollie’s surrogate mother.
We had never intended to have a jack (male donkey) on the farm, since they can become territorial. Jennies (female donkeys) are the ones most often used as livestock guardians. And we weren’t sure if we’d have to rehome Ollie at some point. That’s why we decided to get another girl. Effie arrived last summer. It took Daphne and Ollie a while to accept her, but now the two jennies get along well. They even watch over Ollie while he sleeps.
Ollie isn’t the only animal on our farm that benefits from Daphne’s mothering. Our black sheep Pru rarely leaves Daphne’s side. And she’s almost always within eyesight of the tall, standard donkey.
Daphne is the most skittish of the donkeys. She usually stands in the background and keeps an eye on things - often Ollie getting into mischief. She doesn’t always want to be petted, but every once in a while will walk forward for some love. There’s one instance that stands out in particular. We had a guest who was going through a particularly painful emotional experience. She related to me how Daphne had quite literally wrapped herself around her, giving the grieving woman a hug.
Daphne is rarely named as a guest’s favorite animal on the property. That honor typically goes to our livestock guardian dog Samson or to Ollie. But Daphne, with her stalwart demeanor and her protection of the other animals, is doing exactly what she was bred to do.
This piece first appeared in Sherry’s column, Finding Myself in a Small Town, in the October 21, 2023 edition of the Corsicana Daily Sun.