Saturday, March 28, 2015

Saturday encore ~ Translating ear-speak

Awhile back, reader Onhazier asked, "Can you demystify the ear language employed by equines? I understand 
the body languages of cats and dogs but feel like I’m missing out on half of the conversations your photos document."

Ears are just one component of a donkey's body language, albeit the most obvious given their size.
Donkeys also speak with their their tails, their legs, their voices, even their nostrils. 
I'll attempt to translate the pictures below based mostly on ear-speak.

This picture tells me that Lucy is relaxed but alert, George is half asleep, and Alan is a little agitated. 
Look at Lucy's ears: she is multi-tasking, listening to something off to the side with her right ear and to me with her left ear. 
George ears aren't as perky; he can relax because Lucy and Alan are paying attention for him. 
Alan's ears are pointed at me, but look at those flared nostrils! I think that means he's agitated about something ... 
probably Lucy, because she's standing closer to me and would have first dibs on a cookie were I to offer one.

A noise! Everybody turns toward the sound, which was a vehicle pulling an empty stock trailer over a cattle guard 
about a mile away. If I could identify it with my puny ears, it must have sounded like a sonic boom to the donkeys. 
Alan's keeping an ear out for something happening in the barn (the "something" being Hank, 
who might emerge from the doorway and run over him at any moment).

Lucy is still listening to the vehicle on the road with one ear and to me with the other. 
George's ears are playfully back, as opposed to angrily back (context is everything when trying to translate). 
Alan's look tells me he's concerned; he is listening to the vehicle and to Hank in the barn, 
plus he's got George on his back wanting to play, but he's trapped on all sides.

Alan can't handle the pressure and walks into the barn. George gets miffed because Alan has turned down 
his invitation to play. And Lucy is half annoyed at both of them for being disruptive. 
If she were really annoyed, she would have pinned both ears.

This is why I don't get lonely out here – the animals never shut up!


  1. i love the pinned back one ear on Lucy... and i really enjoyed their conversation

  2. What a great looking family!

  3. Foreign language instruction after my own heart!!

  4. It is amazing how much they can say with their ears! :)

  5. do horses speak the same ear-language as burros?