Documenting the Welfare and Role of Working Equids in Rural Communities of Portugal and Spain

  • Key finding:

    Understanding the social and cultural context of the role that working animals fulfil is crucial to improving their welfare. This study aimed to provide insight into the welfare status and traditional use of working equids in rural Western European communities using a new protocol for assessing working equid welfare, designed to provide a broad, holistic view of the welfare of working equids and the context in which they are found. Other questions on the topics of equid management practices, social transmission of expertise, environmental stressors, and traditions, alongside physical and behavioural welfare assessments were also included to explore the impact of these wide-ranging factors on an understudied population of working equids. A total of 60 working equid owners from rural communities in Portugal and Spain participated. Many owners stated that the help donkeys provided was invaluable, and donkeys were considered to be important for both farming and daily life. However, participants also recognised that the traditional agricultural way of life was dying out. Questions investigating the social transfer of information within the villages were effective in finding local sources of equid knowledge. Overall, welfare was deemed fair, and the protocol enabled the identification of the most prevalent welfare problems within the communities studied. The findings suggest that the new protocol is feasible, providing insights into the traditional practices, community structure, and beliefs of equid owners. Increasing understanding of the cultural context, social structure, and attitudes within a community may, in the future, help to make equid welfare initiatives more effective.

Links to Open Access Publications or DOI:


Haddy, E.; Rodrigues, J.B.; Raw, Z.; Burden, F.; Proops, L. Documenting the Welfare and Role of Working Equids in Rural Communities of Portugal and Spain. Animals 202010, 790.