Endearing donkeys raised on Eden family farm

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Farm Forum

Over the years, a small donkey ranch near Eden has become a favorite family destination for local residents.

Knebel’s Busted Ass Ranch has been in John Knebel’s family for generations, but it was in the 1980s when the family’s first donkeys arrived.

“We adopted a couple from the Bureau of Land Management, just like the wild horses back in the mid to late 1980s. Then we kept them around for predator control because the dogs and stray dogs are bad. That’s how it started,” Knebel said.

It took some time and acts of kindness for the wild donkeys to trust humans, he said.

“The first ones we had, when they had babies, you didn’t get close to them because they were protective. But the ones we’ve got now, they understand we aren’t going to take them away. We start imprinting with them right away when they’re a day old. So then they get to be more tolerable,” Knebel said.

Knebel said spending a little time with the donkeys is all it takes to earn their affection.

“As far as being super friendly around humans, you’ve just got to spend a little time with them. They want to be played with and interacted with as they get older,” he said.

Now Knebel has plans to add a larger breed of donkey to his herd called a mammoth donkey. He said mammoth donkeys cost between $1,000 and $1,500.

“Then we got into a few more and are actually raising bigger donkeys now. They’re very good pets along with it,” he said.

Donkeys come in three sizes: miniature, standard and mammoth. Mammoth donkeys are 56 inches or taller at the withers — the area between their shoulder blades — compared to at least 36 inches for a standard donkey.

“So people from a long ways away like to come see them. Some of (the donkeys) are rideable, and they’re very good with kids. People stop by. We’ve had some from Canada last year. They hear about it and they come out and see them. Sometimes they climb on their back without a rope,” Knebel said.

The donkeys are so well behaved that Knebel has taken them to visit the residents at the Strand Kjorsvig Community Rest Home in Roslyn.

There are nine donkeys at the ranch, with three more babies expected in the months to come, he said.

“We didn’t breed any back from next spring. I could sell quite a few of them because people want them. Ours are raised amongst cattle, so they’re protective among cattle. The ones that are not can sometimes mistake a calf for a dog or coyote. We’ve had that happen with some that were given to me,” Knebel said.

He said the donkeys get along with other livestock and people of all ages, but won’t hesitate to go after a canine.

“I had my cousin here from Chicago. He brought his boys out here a couple years ago and they had a dog. I said make sure you leave the dog in the pickup,” Knebel recalled.

While the boys were petting the donkeys and climbing on their backs, the dog was let out of the truck by accident.

Knebel said he and his cousin had to react quickly and get the boys off the donkeys before they went after the dog.

“Then we started grabbing the kids, then (the donkeys) pinned the dog underneath the pickup,” Knebel said.

Under the protection of the truck, the dog avoided the donkeys’ wrath.

Because of the donkeys’ effective predator protection around cattle, they’ve become a sought after commodity among some local livestock producers.

“There’s quite a few of them that we’ve just given to people. We expect them to come back sometimes, and sometimes they do, and sometimes they keep them forever. We’re getting to have a few more. But I could sure sell more of them if I wanted to,” Knebel said, estimating that one of his donkeys could fetch between $50 and $400.

One of the donkeys was given away by Knebel’s father, LeRon Knebel, who still works on the ranch with his son.

“A couple years ago a little boy wanted a donkey so he traded him a donkey for two fainting goats,” Knebel said.

Visitors are welcome to meet the donkeys at the ranch, Knebel said.

“They’ve each got their own personality by a long shot,” he added.

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