What do you think can be cheaper and better to own, a donkey or a horse? People might think it is better to own horses, but donkeys are much more affordable and easy to maintain.

On average, donkey ownership or maintenance can cost around $11,000 per year. Whereas maintaining a horse can cost up to $19,000 per year. The average yearly maintenance cost alone shows a difference of $8000. Thus donkeys are comparatively cheaper for farms or to own as pets.

Let’s see what makes donkeys cheaper to maintain than horses and how exactly the costs vary with a detailed breakdown.

Donkeys are cheaper to keep than horses

When purchasing a donkey for the first time, it can cost around $300 to the highest price of $3000. The price depends on various factors like size, age, breed, color, gender, training, etc.

The price increases as the age decreases and their size also has a major impact on the price. A mammoth donkey can often cost the highest, and the prices can go over $3000. Whereas a standard donkey can cost an average of $800, and a miniature donkey normally costs around $1200 on average.


The price of donkeys also vary by location. For example, a standard donkey’s price can vary greatly depending on where they are sold in the United States.

Cost of a Donkey:

  • Midwest/West: Lowest $750 and Highest $850
  • East Coast: Lowest $500 and Highest $1000
  • Southern US: Lowest $850 and Highest $1500
  • California: Lowest $650 and Highest $1200

Similarly, the cost of a horse also depends on its age, bloodline, antecedents, size, purpose, type, region, etc.

When compared with donkeys, horses cost a lot more in the United States, mostly because of their popularity among people and as they are used in racing.

Cost of a Horse:

  • California: Lowest $3500 and Highest $25000
  • Washington: Lowest $1000 and Highest $55000
  • Texas: Lowest $850 and Highest $65000
  • New York: Lowest $900 and Highest $150000


Cost of food

The price of food is almost the same for both horses and donkeys. This is because they normally eat the same kind of food.

The deciding factor is the amount of consumption by an animal. A horse consumes 1.5-2% of its body weight, whereas a donkey consumes 1.5% (of its body weight).

A standard donkey weighs 396-496 lbs (180-225 kgs) and an average-sized horse weighs approximately 661 lbs (300 kgs).

In comparison, a horse has to be fed more than a donkey. So, the cost of food is higher for a horse than for a donkey.

The annual cost for food is in the range of $534-$1000 for a donkey and the cost for a horse will be usually more than double of that.

Cost of healthcare

As both the animals are equines, they don’t have many differences in vet care treatments or dentistry. But, they are not treated at the same level, and both have some differences to be taken care of.

Donkeys are very rigid and survive heavy rains and severe climatic changes. Horses are sensitive and need extra care most of the time, which increases their visits to the vet. Hence, the bill is inflated in some cases.

Medical Expenses:

Vet examination: $100 per visit.
Dental check: $70 per visit.
Fecal count: $30 per visit.
Deworming: $25.
Fly spray: $25.

There may be extra charges for farm visits from $45 to $60. Normally, horses have more expenditure than donkeys for health purposes.

Bedding and housing

It’s very important to provide a space where the animals can rest and eat.

The price for bedding and housing can cost $1000 to $10,000 depending on the considerations. Amenities like shedding, water tank, feeding trough, water heater, fencing, water and light bills, etc. can cost $5000 to $10,000.

The cost for bedding is lower for donkeys because they can even survive in a basic bedding of straws.

Other expenses

When it comes to extra expenses, they might end up with a long list.

1. Training Cost

A donkey might not have been trained when you bought it. The cost of such a donkey is usually pretty low. Training a donkey takes some serious effort and can require the help of a professional trainer.

The factors affecting the price of a donkey like age, gender, color, and bloodline also has an impact on the training charges.

Training charges range from $30 to $70 for donkeys and $35 to $75 for horses per lesson.

2. Farrier Expenses

It’s essential to trim the hooves if the animal is used for farm purposes. Both horses and donkeys need hooves trimming every 6-10 weeks.

Normally farrier visits can cost up to $80 per visit.

3. Extra supplies and equipment

For both donkeys and horses, some extra supplies and equipment may be required from time to time. Extras like grooming kits (combs and brushes), tack gear (halter, saddle, bridle), barn supplies (feed bowl, heated automatic waterer), food supplements, and many others can come under this.

Extra expenses can vary from $500 to $1000 a year.

Total annual cost: donkey vs. horse

The annual cost for a horse is far more than a donkey.

Expenses like food, consumables, training, grooming, vet care, vaccinations, farrier, and others vary greatly between a donkey and a horse. Considering all these expenses, we can clearly see that donkeys are cheaper than horses.

The size and body weight of a horse is certainly more than an average-sized donkey, and so is the food intake, resulting in higher food costs.

Below are the tables comparing the annual cost of these equines.

Annual cost of a donkey:

Donkey Annual Cost

Annual cost of a horse:



Now that you know how a donkey is cheaper than a horse in all aspects. A donkey can withstand heavy climatic changes, survive with low-quality food, and has the ability to carry heavy weights on its back. A well-trained donkey can also guard other livestock on your farm. So if you are confused between getting a donkey and a horse, know that it is always cheaper to maintain a donkey and they offer all the above benefits.


  • Surej S

    Surej is an avid animal lover and our associate editor at Donkey on Farm. His favorites are donkeys, cats and cows.

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