What do Donkeys and Camels have in common?
Most people have been given wrong information about camels, being told they store water in their humps. A lot of children, and some adults, have the image of a camel with a hollow hump and water sloshing around in there, but this is not accurate at all.
The camel's hump is where it stores its body fat. The hump is an adaptation to living in the hot desert. By storing all its fat in one, or two, humps, rather than distributing fat deposits all over its body (Polar Bear style) the camel can stay cool in the hot climate. Think of how cold climate animals use layers of fat to keep warm.
The camel's hump is made up of fat cells and muscle. Both the camel, and the donkey come from harsh, dry environments, where they have to make due on poor quality food. Donkeys (although not related to Camels) have the same adaptation; sort of.
photo source - You will note the camel on the right looks like its hump has fallen over.
Donkeys are native to hot climates, they too do not want to have fat on their body as it would result in them overheating, but donkeys do not have humps. Donkeys who get fat deposits (which would be very uncommon in the wild) get them on the sides of their neck.
A fat donkey will start to get a row of fat alongside the crest of its neck. This fat can get so extreme it distorts the neck and will even cause the top of neck to fall over to one side. Once this happens it is nearly always impossible to correct.
You will note some camels in zoos get so fat that their hump falls over to one side. This is because zoo camels are generally well fed by receive very little exercise in relationship to what they would otherwise receive in the wild or if being used for riding or packing.
The donkey in the pictures here is showing a fat neck, not quite to the point of falling over. You can see that the pasture is very rich, with tall grass, much better than a donkey would have in Africa where they originated from.
Domestic donkeys that are working also do not often get fat, however when kept as “pets” and especially when living on a lush pasture, they often do get fat. The donkey is naturally adapted to requiring less food than a horse, and living on poor land, so when kept on a rich pasture, they soon get fat. In extreme cases a very fat donkey will get very unnatural lumps of fat all over their bodies.
If you own, or are considering owning, a donkey, it is very important they do not get any grain. Grain will not only make them fat, but can cause them to founder, which is also a risk when a donkey is kept on a lush, rich, high protein, pasture. Donkeys are often kept as companion animals for horses and this is something owners must be aware of.