Most people who have met or interacted with a donkey know that they are incredibly smart creatures. Some even say that they are as intelligent as a dolphin or a dog. But could it be that donkeys are smarter than dogs? They may not be able to lead the blind or sniff out narcotics as some highly trained dogs can, but with the right training, they can easily be considered equal in intelligence to the average dog. While there is no scientific or definitive answer to the question, “are donkeys smarter than dogs,” it can easily be said that donkeys are as smart as dogs.

Are donkeys really smarter than dogs?

Let’s compare certain traits between donkeys and dogs to gauge their smartness, and probably see who scores higher on the smartness scale.


Donkeys do have a certain type of intelligence, or a strong suit rather, that dogs are not as often known to display. While both donkeys and dogs are known to have good memories, donkeys are known for being able to remember complex and long routes that they may have only traveled once before.

Dogs can certainly remember their way around the block on their daily walks, but donkeys have a superior memory in this regard by far. Additionally, donkeys will never forget a face. Even if they only met the person once and ten years have passed since then, donkeys are known to still remember.

Emotional Intelligence

Donkeys also have a social or emotional intelligence that is quite profound. Like dogs, donkeys are known for having and expressing feelings. They are also known for building strong relationships with others. They say a dog is a man’s best friend, but donkeys are capable of having the same sort of bond with humans that dogs and humans have.

Moreover, donkeys form even stronger bonds and relationships with other donkeys. Donkeys usually bond with another donkey and spend most of their time together as a pair. They’ll go for walks together, play together, graze together, sleep near each other, and groom each other.


The intensity of their bond is clearly visible when or if the pair is ever separated from one another. A donkey that has been separated from its partner or friend will often show signs of stress like increased vocalizations or pacing back and forth. If separated for too long, the donkey can even fall into a depressed state. Dogs form bonds with other animals too, but the depth of the bonds formed seems deeper for donkeys. These strong bonds and connections speak to their emotional intelligence.


Similar to their emotional intelligence, donkeys are also highly empathetic creatures. In fact, over the years, donkeys continue to grow to become more and more popular as therapy animals. Trainers and volunteers often like to use them as therapy animals for children and for the elderly because of their empathy.

Problem Solving

Donkeys are known for their problem-solving skills. One owner reported that when he was training his donkey to walk trails and hike with him, his donkey surprised him with its intelligence and critical thinking skills. He said that when he and his donkey approached a small creek, his donkey hesitated before following him into the water.

Instead of just following right away, the donkey slowly approached the water and touched it with its front leg. It was as if the donkey was trying to gauge the depth of the water. Only once the donkey determined that the river was indeed safe did it follow the man. This is an intelligence trait that isn’t as often seen in dogs. A dog would have blindly trusted the man and jumped right into the river. Whereas the donkey had the intelligence for self-preservation and evaluating the potential risk of the situation.

It is often said that donkeys are smarter than horses in some respects. While both are considered to be prey animals, donkeys tend to be a bit more sensible in their self-preservation skills than horses. As mentioned in the above story about how the donkey stopped and analyzed the depth of the water before moving forward or making a decision, donkeys will often do this. In fact, this behavior is often misconstrued as stubbornness when in reality, it is just the animal working through and evaluating the risks.

On the other hand, horses are known for being flighty creatures who get scared easily. Donkeys investigate and think things through before reacting like that. Many people love this characteristic about donkeys.

For dogs, on the other hand, it can depend entirely on the breed of the dog and the dog itself. Some are inquisitive and will investigate the things that scare them with caution. In contrast, others will act with aggression towards new and frightening things. Others will freeze or panic and run. Donkeys seem to be the most clear-headed when it comes to their problem-solving skills and their self-preservation.


Just like dogs, donkeys can absolutely be trained to perform certain tasks. They respond well to voice commands along with positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement for a donkey might include petting or pats, words of affirmation like “good job” or “that a boy,” and, of course, treats. In fact, some people have found that they can easily clicker train their donkeys in the same way clicker training is used for dogs.

Intelligence is subjective and depends entirely on the individual species, breed, and the individual animals themselves. For example, we all know dogs are smart. But some are smarter than others. A German Shepherd, for example, is probably smarter than a pug in certain areas. But not all German Shepherds are equally intelligent. One may pass all the testing for work as a police dog with flying colors, while another may flunk out of school and be better suited as a house dog.

The same can be said for donkeys. Some can be more intelligent than others. It also comes down to the animal’s willingness to learn, their interest in learning, and their ability to concentrate. Some donkeys may love learning new things and training with their owner, while others may be more inclined to stroll around the pasture and graze instead.


While there is no way to definitively say whether donkeys are smarter than dogs, it can easily be said that donkeys are far smarter than we give them credit for. They are clever animals with a whole lot of personality to share.


  • Julianna R

    Julianna is an ardent animal lover who has multiple experiences dealing with farm animals. She has worked as a pet care specialist and loves animals that come in all shapes and sizes. She is a writing enthusiast too and loves to tell her stories to the world through her words.

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