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Cute and stubborn as a mule, burros also fleet of foot

That’s Bonnie, right, and her running partner Clyde, two burros with roots in the Bureau of Land Management adoption program. About 10, the burros have a lifespan of around 30 years, owner Scott Pierce of Dockery says. The animals are a variety of donkey – not to be confused with a mule – but can be stubborn like a mule. They’re also faster than you might think, good protection for herds of sheep and calves and generally inexpensive to keep, Pierce said. And it doesn’t take an owner to convince the average person how cute they are. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News).

By David Knopf, News Editor

It’s no secret that mules – technically, a cross between a horse and a donkey – have a reputation for stubbornness.
The two animals Scott and Barb Pierce keep behind their Dockery home aren’t mules, but burros, a smaller variety of the donkey, which is a distinct species.
As cute as the burros may be with their short stature, big eyes and a tuft of hair between tall, pointed ears, Scott assures us that the hard-headed stubbornness that defines a mule’s temperment applies just as well to his BLM (Bureau of Land Management) burros, Bonnie and Clyde.
“They really are stubborn, hard-headed and fast,” is how he puts it.
To illustrate, he uses the story of Jesse, one of almost 10 burros he and his wife have raised for adoption over the years. Let out to graze in a field, Jesse simply resisted  – politely at first – all efforts to put him back in the corral.
Once Scott had the halter in place, the cordial disagreement became a tug of war, with the burro digging in with all its might. When Scott pulled, Jesse pulled back. When Scott wouldn’t relent – apparently a burro master has to match, even exceed, his animal’s stubborn streak – neither would Jesse.
In trying to settle the matter once and for all, the burro simply laid down on its side and refused to budge. The Pierces have photos to prove it.
It took some ingenuity and brute strength, but Scott ultimately prevailed, tapping some additional horsepower to gently drag stubborn Jesse back to the corral – kicking and screaming as he went.

After Jesse, left, refused to be coaxed back into the corral, owner Scott Pierce had to enlist some horsepower to get the job done. (Submitted photo)

A burro may lose a standoff, but there will be no surrender without a fight.
And, Scott says, you might not know it by looking, but the short-legged burro is deceptively fast. He said he’s chased calves in open pasture and they’re no match for the fleet burro.
“I can catch a calf, but I can’t catch one of these when they get going,” he said. “When these get to going, they’re hauling, they’re really moving.”
So is the burro’s only virtue the kind of cuteness that could melt a warden’s heart? Not at all, the Pierces say.
Barb, a former oncology nurse at Ray County Memorial Hospital, is an avid scrap-booker and photographer. Not only has she put together book after book of burro photos, but during the holiday season has convinced burros with names like Frankie and Maggie Mae to stand still for Christmas card photos, complete with those pointed red and white Santa hats.
She distributed the cards and photos to cheer her patients, and also mailed them to friends and family.
The burro is especially appropriate around Christmas, the Pierces say, because of a connection with Mary and the Baby Jesus.
“Legend says that God thanked the burro with a cross for carrying Mary to Bethlehem to delivery Baby Jesus,” Barb wrote in one of her photo scrapbooks.

Barb Pierce has used images of the couple's baby burros to illustrate their Christmas cards. Some were used to cheer up cancer patients that Barb, an oncology nurse, helped care for. (Submitted photo)

If you look at a burro’s back, it has a dark cross-like marking running down its spine and across the shoulders. That’s where the Bethlehem connection comes in.
Barb said she named one the couple’s newborn burros, Baby Beeki, to commemorate Dr. Venkatadri Beeki’s survival after a heart attack and near-drowning in 2006. The burro was born four days after the oncologist nearly died.
“He was always amused with my burro stories and had asked just that day if the latest one had come yet,” Barb said, recounting the story of his heart attack in a pool. “When the little guy did come so soon after, I knew I had to name him that.”
For Christmas that year, she gave the doctor a tie with photos of Beeki reproduced on it.
The Pierces’ burros have their roots in Montana, Scott says, where they were adopted through the Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse and Burro Program (www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/whbprogram.html).
There are several other BLM burros in Ray County, including one  that Richmond Fire Chief Lonnie Quick adopted from the Pierces.
They may be stubborn at times, and hard to corral, but the animals also can be very social, even affectionate. That’s especially true, Scott says, when they’re adopted young and handled frequently. That, and putting several generations between them and their roots as wild animals, can make them more adaptable to pulling a cart or being ridden.
Even in their less-than-tame state, burros can offer good protective instincts for sheep or calves. It’s inbred in burros to guard against wolves and coyotes to protect themselves, and they’ll do the same for the young of other species, Scott said.
With their low center of gravity, speed and bullheadedness, Quick said a burro will attack what it senses to be a predator – even a dog – by putting its large head down and charging.
And unlike his horses, Pierce said his burros have been very inexpensive to keep.
“It doesn’t take much to keep these going,” Scott said. “They’ll eat just about anything” and rarely need a veterinarian’s care.”
They’ll eat last year’s hay when a horse won’t, and gobble up things like day-old bread, even potato chips. They’re just not that picky.
Scott saves money by doing his own maintenance on Bonnie and Clyde’s hooves, he said, but takes special care to work in a tight area where they’re unable to turn, kick or bite.
He said a burro has the ability to kick sideways, not just toward the back.
* * *
From the Bureau of Land Management Web site: “The BLM estimates that approximately 38,500 wild horses and burros (about 33,000 horses and 5,500 burros) are roaming on BLM-managed rangelands in 10 Western states based on the latest data available, compiled as of Feb. 28, 2011. Wild horses and burros have virtually no natural predators and their herd sizes can double about every four years. As a result, the agency must remove thousands of animals from the range each year to protect rangeland resources, such as wildlife habitat, from the impacts of overpopulation.”

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