Meet The Graciosa Donkey: A True Native of The Azores

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Last updated on June 14, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 3 minutes

Today, we’re venturing off the beaten path, swapping sandy beaches and bustling cityscapes for the idyllic tranquility of the Azores. Nestled in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, this Portuguese archipelago is a treasure trove of natural wonders and unique cultural heritage. But there’s one emblematic creature here that stands out from the rest—the Graciosa Donkey (often called the dwarf donkey). This friendly and enduring symbol of Azorean life has a story worth telling, and one worth experiencing first-hand!

A Tale of Endurance and Resilience

The Graciosa Donkey is not just any donkey. It’s a breed native to the Azores, particularly the island of Graciosa, hence its name. This hardy breed is distinguished by its medium size, robust structure, and a calm and docile demeanour. Their coats range from shades of grey to brown, and their ears are noticeably larger than those of other breeds, a signature characteristic of the Graciosa Donkey.

Historically, these donkeys played an essential role in the island’s agricultural economy, used for transporting goods and people, tilling the fields, and even producing power for mills. As modernisation took hold, the role of these loyal creatures diminished, leading to a significant decline in their population. However, the love and respect the locals have for these donkeys never waned, and in recent years, efforts have been made to preserve and celebrate the breed.

A Conservation Success Story

Since the early 2000s, the Graciosa Donkey has been the focus of conservation initiatives. Recognising their cultural and historical significance, the local community, along with several animal welfare organisations, have worked tirelessly to ensure the survival of the Graciosa Donkey. Thanks to these efforts, the population is now steadily increasing, and the donkey’s place in Azorean heritage is being recognised more than ever.

Experience the Graciosa Donkey Up Close

graciosa donkey sanctuary

So, how can you, as a visitor, partake in the joy of meeting these charming creatures? Well, there are several ways!

The most popular option is to visit the Associação de Criadores e Amigos do Burro Anão da Ilha Graciosa (Graciosa Donkey Preservation Center) located in the Ribeirinha district on the island [map link]. Here, you can meet the donkeys, learn about their history and role in Azorean culture, and even take part in daily care routines. It’s a fantastic opportunity to interact with these gentle creatures and contribute to their preservation. You will normally need to book at least a day in advance, and this can be done by email (burrodagraciosa@gmail.com) or by telephone (+351) 967070246. 

Alternatively, some local farms offer visitors the chance to spend a day with these donkeys. You can partake in traditional farming activities, enjoy scenic walks with a donkey companion, and even try your hand at donkey riding—always under the careful guidance of experienced handlers, of course!

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