Hoof Ground Interactions in the Donkey

Project: Research

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Donkeys are a crucial species for both production and draft work globally, with an estimated 50.4 million animals worldwide. Lameness is a significant problem for these animals, with prevalence rates of up to 100% in some populations. This results in poor welfare and reduced productivity for animals used for the production of meat and dairy and for animals used for draft and pack uses in poor communities. Lameness in donkeys is frequently associated with hoof problems. Preliminary data suggests that longer toes may be protective for lameness in the donkey, which is markedly different to current knowledge of their nearest relative, the horse. This suggests a fundamental difference between the species in terms of hoof morphometry and lameness, likely anatomical or biomechanical. However, the biomechanical principle for this is not understood as the donkey is a significantly under studied species. The interaction between hoof and surface is of critical importance to ungulates, as adaptations for efficient locomotion has resulted in a lack of dynamic adaptation to the external environment during locomotion. Part one of this study will compare hoof contact and kinetic parameters between the donkey and the horse to provide an insight into normal locomotion in this under-studied species. This will be achieved by using body-mounted inertial measurement units to quantify speed and gait symmetry (i.e., freedom from lameness). High-speed motion capture and high-fidelity pressure mats and measure hoof contact and hoof pressure alongside stride parameters. Comparisons will be made between ten horses and ten donkeys, as horses are a well-established research animal and biomechanical knowledge of this species is advanced. Part two will compare hoof contact and kinematic parameters between donkeys with normal hoof conformation and donkeys with abnormal hooves in order to establish which hoof morphologies are the most significant andrequire interventions for correction. This will allow targeted health interventions, resulting in increased production, improved welfare and improved outcomes for stakeholders such as donkey farmers and those reliant upon donkeys for traction and draft work. 


Project number9048205
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/01/22 → …