Of Horses, Donkeys, and Danes

Every now and again I see pictures on social media of cute-as-a-button toddlers ‘riding’ their dog. I use riding loosely, as they are just quietly sitting on top of the dog, most likely as a prop for the picture. The pictures’ caption varies from “best buddies”, “out in the backyard”, “best Halloween costume” and “who says [insert breed] is dangerous around kids”.

Then you click to read some of the comments.

Michael comments

And some of them blow your mind away! There are comments about the baby. aaawwwww. how cute he/she looks. how big he/she got. how proper he/she sits. how nice to have a devoted pal like [insert dog breed or name]. Some comments are about the dog. aaaawwww. look how patient it is. it will be a great protector. best buds for life. Then the know-it-alls weigh in and comment about the whole situation being just plain bad. the dog could snap and hurt the toddler and who’s to blame then. the dog’s back will give to the weight of the toddler. the parents are teaching bad manners.

Stop getting your panties in a bunch!

Some parents know all that and 2 minutes to take that picture and add “look how cute they are” won’t hurt either parties. There are other things toddlers do to dogs that I want to shake the living hell out of the parents for, but that’s for another post.

We have a Great Dane and two Great Pyrenees (yup! it’s a great trio party!). Our good friends have two Great Danes and a Doberman, and a little girl. In her whole 1 year of life, the parents posted a total of 2 pictures with one of the Great Dane. TWO! One was with the little baby all snuggled on the dog and one was more recent with the little girl on top on the dog. And I feel that the gig has been exhausted. Next pictures will most definitely only be with the little girl next to the dog. They are also expecting a little boy and I think the tradition will be the same! “Little boy you get two pictures on top of the dog, because that’s what your sister got”. Deal with it kiddo! 😉

Then I went on a mission to search about weight restrictions for dogs. and donkeys. and horses.

Dog weight restrictions

Guess what? They even make weight vests for dogs! Yup. Vests! That they can carry around on them. The vests are good for endurance training (muscle toning), leash-pulling behaviour (it slows the dogs down a bit on walks, or it helps the dogs that pull sleighs), and they quickly exhaust an overactive dog (Labradors are on steroids all the time)! The overall weight of the vests vary from 1/2 pound to 10 pounds.

Tia, the Great Dane, at 3 years old, could easily carry around about 25lbs.

I know it’s not the same as having a toddler saddled on its back, as weight is not easily distributed.

With practice and training, an adult healthy dog could carry around up to 20% of its total weight. Puppies and senior dogs are encouraged to carry less then 5% or 0% as to not strain their joints. Large and x-large breed puppies in particular should not be allowed to carry around any weight. Puppies joints are not fully formed until about 6-7 months of age.

puppy joints


Donkey weight restrictions 

Donkeys are a different story. Or are they? 

In the world of all things equine, donkeys are versatile animals and full of character. They are fantastic to get to know and work with. Even though they are part of the same category as horses, donkeys are quite distinct; they differ physically, mentally and emotionally. They are more stoical in their behaviour and tend to startle less than horses. Teaching a donkey requires a different mindset to teaching a horse; they can not be rushed into doing something they don’t want to do!

Stubborn like a donkey. … or a Great Pyrenees!

Donkeys get very attached and form very strong bonds with other donkeys and animals. Even short term separation from a companion can be stressful. When a friend dies, you may need to leave them together for at least 30 minutes to help them “understand” the loss. Donkeys are also great livestock guardians and very good at protecting the livestock. If there is a predator threat, the female donkey (jenny) would usually stay with the flock and the male donkey (jack) would go and even charge at the predator or he’ll warn the rest of the herd by braying.



“By the time I got over there, Buck was stomping the coyote. Then he reached down and picked him up by the neck and started slinging him like a rag doll. I grabbed my phone and got two pictures.” – Steve Hipps



As you may know, the donkey is used all over the world for an infinite variety of jobs. Many backpackers use a donkey (which they often call a burro), to carry the heavy load since the animal walks at about a human’s foot pace and are such enjoyable companions on the trail. Studies show a mature, healthy donkey can carry up to 20% of its weighttold you they are not that different than a Dane 😉 

Horse weight restrictions

Last year, when we visited Jamaica, Mitchell and I also went on a private horseback riding tour with the Braco Stables. They had gorgeous, strong horses. All were very friendly and a joy to ride. Since Mitchell was not quite a ballerina, we were concerned they might not have a horse to support all the weight a 6’1″ man carried around 😉 Of course, that was not the case! Mitchell got to pick out of three horses which one he wanted to take for a ride, and off we went. The trail was wonderful and we even went by the ocean side and ride through the sand. We stopped at a tourist spot and took some pictures with us on the horses in the water. Fantastic experience!

I’ll take one in every color, thank you very much!

While most healthy horses can easily carry a rider and saddle, they do have their limits. A study was conducted with eight horses that were ridden while packing anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of their body weight. The horses ranged in size from 400 to 625 kg (880 lbs to 1375 lbs). When carrying 15 and 20% of their body weight, the horses showed relatively little indication of stress. It’s when they were packing weights of 25% that physical signs changed markedly, and these became accentuated under 30% loads.

Based on these results, the study’s authors recommend that horses not be loaded with greater than 20% of their body weight (surprise, surprise!). A 545 kg (1200 lbs) mature, healthy horse would be best off carrying no more than 109 kg (240 lbs) of tack and rider.


Fun fact: Since it is not uncommon for donkeys and horses to be bred together, it may be useful to mention about genetics. While horses have 64 chromosomes, donkeys have only 62, therefore cross breeds will have only 63 chromosomes, which is why they are infertile. Also interesting to note the mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, and the hinny is the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey.



2 Thoughts on “Of Horses, Donkeys, and Danes

  1. I have a photo of my youngest half sitting on my mate’s Great Dane when he was about a year old. I say half sitting because I hovered him over the dog’s back while he squirmed around laughing his head off. I don’t think he’ll make a good horse rider somehow!

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