Why do horses need shoes but donkeys don't? © Getty Images

Why do horses need shoes but donkeys don’t?

There is some debate about why domestic horses get the fancy footwear (and whether they even need it) when donkeys don't.

Asked by: Anonymous

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Actually, whether domestic horses need shoes is debated. Wild horses amble long distances daily, usually over rough grassland, which gradually builds up hard hooves. Domestic horses usually grow weaker hooves because of intermittent exercise, often over softer, damper ground, and sometimes exacerbated by an unbalanced diet. In horses expected to perform arduous rides on hard surfaces, horseshoes can prevent particularly weak hooves wearing and splitting.

Anecdotally, it’s often said that donkeys possess tougher hooves, probably because their wild ancestor (the African Wild Ass) evolved in arid, often mountainous habitats. Although published studies don’t reveal anything showing donkey hooves are harder, computer analysis suggests that walking causes less internal foot stress in donkeys than horses. Even so, unnatural domestic environments and diets can still weaken donkey hooves. So some donkeys enduring extended strenuous rides over hard surfaces may require shoes too.

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