Although donkeys make sounds that might sound like laughter, donkeys do not actually laugh, these sounds represent a form of warning among donkeys of possible danger in the surroundings.
In another sense, a donkey showing its teeth in a way that looks like a smile is also a characteristic behavior of some animals called Flehmen’s response that has nothing to do with what is understood as laughter.
As I promised to give the answer briefly I will now proceed to develop the topic, why donkeys seem to laugh in certain situations?
I recently saw a video that I thought was very funny of a curious dog standing in front of a group of donkeys behind a fence.
The fence was electrified and the poor ignorant dog stuck his snout to the fence which caused him to run away while barking in pain (poor dog).
One of the donkeys immediately began to bray and its sound was like a mocking laugh, the people around also began to laugh.
This video really made me wonder, can donkeys really laugh?, so I decided to investigate.
The braying of donkeys is not a laugh, it is a warning signal
The braying of donkeys can be heard from a long distance and is so loud that it could be a nuisance to anyone.
It is necessary to make the point that, despite how people feel about braying, donkeys’ braying sounds may be very useful. Indeed, the donkeys are quick to warn that they are approaching predators.
By braying, donkeys are warning of approaching dangerous predators such as wolves and other wild animals. Thus, braying functions as a warning that helps to take protective measures to guard livestock.
It’s not a laugh, it’s a noise of fear
In the body language of donkeys, brays and sounds can mean several things, especially what we mentioned previously about the warning signal.
One of the main reasons for braying is out of fear, the donkey, like most mammalian animals, is very aware of its environment and adapted to react naturally to possible predators.
In the particular case of the video I mentioned at the beginning, it is obvious that the abrupt reaction of the dog, together with the loud barking caused great fear in the donkeys.
Naturally, you can see that the braying donkey is frightened, while the others are moving away from the fence.
What about the donkeys that just smile and don’t bray?
The smiling aspect of donkeys, showing their teeth with their lips folded is a characteristic reaction of some animals such as cats, this reflex is called the Flehmen reflex.
This gesture consists of opening the mouth and retracting the lips, this movement is made by some animals that capture the scent with the vomeronasal organ, in fact with this gesture they are analyzing aromas that enter through the mouth and reach the nose.
With this gesture they are able to capture many smells, for example when an animal is in mating season, this gesture is characteristic when donkeys are in mating season.
Do donkeys bray when happy?
Being happy is not the only reason why a donkey brays, there are several reasons why they bray, it is a means of communication for them just as other mammalian animals use sounds to express themselves.
They may be calling their herd mates, alerting the herd of a predator or danger, they do it when they are happy or hungry, when they are jealous, etc.
Do donkeys feel happiness?
Because happiness is a state of pleasure caused by the release of dopamine in the body, it can be said that an animal such as a donkey is capable of feeling happiness since all mammals have an area in the brain that is stimulated by dopamine.
Animals are also capable of transmitting their emotions in a similar way to humans through facial or body gestures, although in the specific case of this topic, the “laughter of the donkey” is not an expression that has to do directly with its state of happiness.
But, the fact that a mammal has the capacity to release dopamine does not mean that it can laugh because of this, laughter is a product of the sense of humor, and the sense of humor is a cognitive process that is not present in animals.
Keep in mind that animals process emotions differently from humans.
Why do donkeys scream at night?
Donkeys may bray or scream depending on the situation, but if they hear or feel anything that scares or stresses them they will bray loudly, it is also very common for them to bray loudly in periods of heat.
This could be annoying especially in the evening hours in urban or medium-density areas, where people try to rest at night.
Braying is the donkeys’ way of communicating and can be heard from miles away.