Special Issue "Insights on Donkey, Mule, and Horse Welfare - Causes, Solutions, and Prospects"

A special issue of Animals (ISSN 2076-2615). This special issue belongs to the section "Farm Animals".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 28 February 2019

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. John Madigan

Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis, CA 95616, USA
Website | E-Mail
Interests: disasters; welfare; equine; neonatal; neurology

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Donkeys, mules, and horses have played a central role in societies throughout history. These animals were central to agriculture, transportation, warfare, and played vital roles in building cities and roads before the development of the automobile. Today there are an estimated 100 million working horses, mules, and donkeys worldwide. In wealthier societies of North America, Western Europe, and Japan equids are involved in sport and performance, and personal ownership as companion animals. In contrast, most horses, mules, and donkeys are working draft animals in the rest of the world, serving an entirely different function in civilization.  The awareness of the welfare needs in all these diverse and culturally different environments has been a growing concern worldwide. Welfare science seeks to obtain relevant research to answer questions to improve the lives of equids in their various roles around the world and expand welfare beyond the five freedoms toward a goal of a life worth living.

Entities such as the World Organization of Animal Health (OIE) have recently expanded their efforts in support of the welfare of equids by creating formal agreements with coalitions of animal welfare organizations  (ICFAW), representing over 150 organizations dedicated to improving the welfare of equids. The complex interactions of equids involve government, human interaction, environments affected by climate change, environmental regulations, economics, sentience awareness,  and the human-animal bond.  Identification of new solutions to welfare issues can come from research. Sciences which can aid improvement of the welfare of these animals include behavior, ethics, nutrition, feeds and feeding, infectious diseases, farrier education, dentistry, disaster response, education, parasitology, preventive and internal medicine, among others.  

Additionally, it is becoming apparent that there are welfare issues in the management of feral horses and donkeys. The successful adaptations of equids, especially in arid and semi-arid lands has led to controversies, such as overpopulation on government lands, right to exist in new environments, and the value of megafauna in the “rewilding” of lands where humans have lived for millennia.  When considered with the issues of unwanted horses, performance horse medication, transportation of equids, equid slaughter, training methodology, racehorse breakdown, equine abuse and neglect, and the lives of working horses, there is apparently an opportunity for research and discussion in a wide welfare context.

This special issue is seeking information including reviews, and original research on causes, solutions, and prospects for improved welfare of horses, donkeys and mules. We seek to obtain a greater understanding of the factors affecting the qualities of life of these animals which are so important economically and for the pleasure of their presence in the lives of many humans.

Prof. John Madigan
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Animals is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • Welfare
  • Donkey
  • Mule
  • Horse
  • Equid
  • Suffering
  • Working
  • Behavior
  • Ethics
  • Nutrition
  • Farrier
  • Dentistry
  • Preventive medicine

Published Papers (1 paper)

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Open AccessArticle Risk Factors for Transport-Related Problem Behaviors in Horses: A New Zealand Survey
Animals 2018, 8(8), 134; https://doi.org/10.3390/ani8080134
Received: 6 July 2018 / Revised: 29 July 2018 / Accepted: 31 July 2018 / Published: 2 August 2018
PDF Full-text (284 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Transport-related problem behaviors (TRPBs) are common in horses and can cause injury to both the horses and their handlers. This study aimed to identify possible risk factors for TRPBs to inform approaches to mitigate TRPBs incidence and enhance horse welfare. An online cross-sectional
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Transport-related problem behaviors (TRPBs) are common in horses and can cause injury to both the horses and their handlers. This study aimed to identify possible risk factors for TRPBs to inform approaches to mitigate TRPBs incidence and enhance horse welfare. An online cross-sectional survey was conducted to explore the prevalence of TRPBs and their association with human-, training- and transport management-related factors in New Zealand. The survey generated 1124 valid responses that were analyzed using descriptive statistics, and logistic regression analyses. Having at least one horse with TRPB was reported by 249/1124 (22.2%) respondents during the two previous years. Of these, 21/249 (8.4%) occurred during pre-loading, 78/249 (31.3%) during loading, 132/249 (53.0%) while travelling, and 18/249 (7.3%) during unloading. Our findings indicate that the use of negative reinforcement and positive punishment as training methods, using a whip or food for loading, and travelling in a straight load trailer/float while offering food were associated with a higher likelihood of TRPBs. Cross-sectional studies cannot determine causality and findings should be interpreted with caution, and evaluated in further experimental studies. The authors suggest that education on appropriate training methods for transport, and vehicle selection may mitigate the risk for TRPBs in horses. Full article
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