Miranda donkey

Discover fascinating facts about Portugal’s only officially recognised donkey breed.

See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine May 2016


Terra de Miranda

  • The Miranda donkey, or burro de Miranda, is born with a black coat, which will later in life turn brown. They have white markings around their eyes and muzzle, longer hair and are usually more sociable than other donkey sorts.
  • Originally, they come from the Terra de Miranda region (hence the name), in the northeast of Portugal. It wasn’t until 2001 that the Miranda donkey was recognised by the Portuguese Department of Agriculture as a distinct breed. Currently it’s the only officially recognised donkey breed in the country.


Poor man’s motor

  • In the old times, the donkeys were an important part of Portugal’s agriculture. Since they were very agile and helped farmers plough their fields as well as carry goods, they were also known as the ‘poor man’s motor’.
  • Now, tractors have taken over the donkeys’ place and it’s estimated that only 300 burros de Miranda still work as farm animals. Most farmers keep the donkeys as companions or give them away to sanctuaries like theRefúgio dos Burros in Estombar.


Save the donkeys

  • Since 2003, the Miranda donkeys is considered an endangered animal. A study by the University of Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro (UTAD) suggested there were only 600 registered breeding females and 25 males left. Most males are castrated to make them less aggressive, so the donkeys are at a high risk of extinction.
  • Add to this that most of the farmers who still keep the donkeys are already over the age of 75 themselves and it’s clear that without intervention, the breed could well become extinct before 2050.


Soap and tours

  • In order to preserve the breed, Miranda donkeys are now being used in tours; while hiking, the donkey carries your backpack. This eco-tourism is also gaining popularity in the Algarve, check out the article about donkey trekking in our February issue.
  • Other modern uses include making soap, creams and cheese out of donkey milk. Rich in lactose and high in fat, the milk has loads of health benefits, at least according to Cleopatra who used to bathe in the stuff.


See original article in Enjoy the Algarve – magazine May 2016

Posted in Typical Portugal.