News by emailDonate

Suggestions

Top Stories

Most Read

Popular Videos

Donkey banner.jpg
Robert Graham
Donkey.jpg
Robert Graham
UK News

Scientists suggest donkey was perfect choice for Mary's journey to Bethlehem

by Press Association

Mary's journey to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus may have involved an inspired choice of transport, according to new research.

Experts believe donkeys are better qualified than their closest relatives to cope with warmer weather and would have been ideally suited to carrying the expectant mother and her precious cargo.

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth found the animals are better adapted to hot, arid climates common in the Holy Land than other members of the horse family.

A university spokeswoman said: "We might associate donkeys with Christmas, but new research from the University of Portsmouth shows the animals are keener on hotter periods of the year.

"Donkeys, it seems, love sun and warmth.

"That's the finding of the first study to examine the conditions under which healthy non-working donkeys and mules seek shelter in hot, dry climates.

"It found that whilst mules would seek shelter from the heat and insects, donkeys enjoyed the sunshine and warmth for longer."

Equine behaviour expert Dr Leanne Proops, of the university's department of psychology, led a team who studied 130 donkeys and mules at two locations in southern Spain during a seven-week period over the summer for the research, which is published in the Journal Of Applied Animal Behaviour Science.

In both locations, researchers recorded the animals' need for shade during temperatures ranging between 14C and 37C, with vets from The Donkey Sanctuary on hand to ensure they were healthy.

Dr Proops said: "We found that donkeys are less likely to seek shelter from the heat and light than mules.

"The sensitivity of mules to higher temperatures and sunlight may be due to the geographically different evolution of horses and donkeys and their adaptations to different climates.

"Donkeys are better adapted to arid, hot climates and hence higher sunlight levels.

"In contrast, horses are more adapted to cold conditions, and our previous research has shown that donkeys seek shelter far more often than horses in cold, wet conditions.

"As a hybrid, mules often display attributes that are a mixture of both species, such as their winter hair coat growth.

"Therefore, it might be expected that mules are less adapted to conditions of high temperatures and sunlight levels than donkeys, as we found in this study."

Dr Faith Burden, director of research and operational support at The Donkey Sanctuary and co-author of the paper, said: "The majority of working equids worldwide are exposed to hot climates and, as a consequence, may suffer from issues such as dehydration and heat stress.

"By establishing the natural shelter-seeking behaviour of healthy donkeys and mules across climates, we hope to be able to inform welfare guidelines and encourage good management of these animals."

Father God,

Thank you for the Christmas story which inspires us 2,000 years on.

Thank you for sending your son into the world.

Help us to never take that for granted.

Amen

9

people are praying for this news article

Continue the conversation on our Facebook page

A Monthly Gift Of £5 Makes A World Of Difference

In a world of fake news there’s never been a greater need for quality Christian journalism. Premier’s mission is to provide the Church with the most up to date and relevant news, told from a Christian perspective. But we can’t do it without you.

Unlike many websites we haven't put up a paywall — we want to keep our journalism free at the point of need and as open as we can. Premier’s news output takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. No one in the UK is sharing news like we are across radio, magazines and online so please help us to continue that today.

For a monthly gift of £5 or more we’d also be able to send you a free copy of the brand new Premier Bible, a wonderful Anglicised version of the NLT packed with exclusive bonus content, reading plan and resources to help you get the most out of scripture.

Your monthly support will make a world of difference. Thank you.

Set up a monthly gift

Related Articles

Sign up to our newsletter to stay informed with news from a Christian perspective.

Connect

Donate

Donate