Jack is a miniature Sicilian donkey and his ears are indeed quite big!
When a young lady asked me this question on the tour, I didn’t know the actual answer. I told her that Jack’s ears were big so that he could hear it when you whisper “I love you”. Of course, my young guest proceeded to tell Jack she loved him – at the top of her lungs!
In reality, donkeys evolved to have such large ears for two reasons. First, it does offer them enhanced hearing! Because of their build, donkeys aren’t as fast as other members of the equine family, like horses. It makes sense that their ears are more sensitive, so they can hear predators approach in the wild. This excellent hearing also means that donkeys are great “watchdogs” in the barnyard. Often if they hear a predator, they will bray loudly and let the other animals know – or perhaps scare the bad guys away.
Additionally, donkeys’ large ears allow them to vent heat from their heads. Native to areas in northern African, donkeys were first domesticated around 3000 B.C. in Egypt. Their large ears help heat escape – which is useful for the regions they came from, where it can be quite warm and arid.
Come meet Jack – he is waiting to hear you whisper sweet nothings his way and there are tours this Saturday, May 30th!
Rissa Miller is the head tour guide at Burleigh Manor and leads both private and public tours at the farm. She welcomes your questions at any time and all the posts in her column are actual questions asked by guests during tours. Join us and try to stump Rissa!