Mijas Pueblo is known for its Donkey Taxis. Bus tours travel daily to the idyllic, Spanish village loaded with tourists from all over the world. They all want to tour the white village by donkey back. The village is situated halfway up the mountain with stunning views over the coastline of Costa del Sol. The village is a short day trip from Malaga and other coastal towns.
Thousands of tourists take their traditional selfies on a donkey every year. If these people were aware of the effect of their actions, most of them would not do it. I will get back to why you should never ride a Donkey Taxi in Mijas, but first some history.
The history of the Donkey Taxis
Many think this has been a tradition for hundreds of years, but the first Donkey Taxis actually only started back in the ’60s. Back then, tourists stopped farmers on the road to take photos with the donkeys.
Eventually, it became so popular that the farmers earned more from the tip they got from travelers than the work on the fields. Thereof the locals started up a new business of Donkey Taxis.
Ever since, tourists have traveled to Mijas Pueblo to pay for a tour around the village on donkey back. The donkeys have become the icon of this white village halfway up the mountains of Mijas.
So, why shouldn’t you ride a donkey? Donkeys are hard workers and known for carrying weight, aren’t they?
Maximum weight for a donkey to carry
Donkeys are hard-working animals, but they should never carry more than one-third of their body weight. This includes the weight of the saddle, which in itself weighs quite a bit.
This is what the British organization The Donkey Sanctuary says about how much weight a donkey should carry: “Historically 8 stone (50kg) has been used as a guideline. In reality, this should be the maximum load for a fit, larger than the average donkey and only when the rider is able to stay balanced and react to the movements of the donkey.”
Reading this, there are not many adults that will be in the weight group that a donkey should carry. Also, quite a few children might also be too heavy.
Read more about animal tourism here.
The well being of donkeys
There are some basic needs working donkeys need to stay healthy. The animals have the need for a comfortable place to lay down for a good rest so they can charge their batteries. Their shelter should have a roof to protect against sun and rain, and there should be plenty of space to move around. Donkeys enjoy running and playing. Water and food is, of course, an accessible requirement.
Furthermore, they need to have proximity to others of their species. Donkeys partner up two or three for life, and they will do everything with their partner; Rest, cuddle, sleep, run, eat and play. So it is important that partners can stay together at all times.
Mijas Donkey Taxi
Every day the donkeys are victims of carrying too heavy loads around the village. Both adults and overweight children come to the village to ride a donkey. It is also frequent to see an adult with his child on one animal. As a result, many of these animals struggle with chronic leg problems. Their backs become sway due to heavyweight with deep marks after the saddle.
Donkey Taxis in Mijas are tied up 24 hours a day. They do not have access to lie down in the stable and they never get the chance to run and play. I can only assume that there is little opportunity to intimate with their partners.
Unfortunately, there are several donkey owners that still hit the animals when they get stubborn. Several videos of mistreatment of the Mijas Donkey Taxis have been viral.
So, even though your child is small enough to ride a donkey, is this kind of animal abuse something you want to support?
You might also like: Unethical animal tourism and what to do instead: Animal rides
Animal rights groups
Several animal rights groups have been fighting for years against the Donkey Taxi industry in Mijas Pueblo. But hatred and threats from the donkey owners scare people away from keeping working for the donkeys rights in the village.
Rumors say that people have been threatened for their own and their families’ lives. As a result, many have retreated completely from the work they have been doing towards the donkeys’ rights. Whether this is true or not, I can’t answer.
However, an organization that has been working hard towards bettering the lives of the donkeys in Mijas is the non-profit organization El Refugio del Burrito. This year, they made an agreement with the city council of Mijas to improve the standard of living of these animals.
The organization aims for proper stables and beds. Besides, the donkeys should receive regular care from a vet. This will assure those animals that are not apt for labor are not put to work. And finally, to let the older donkeys retire.
They aspire to eventually end the business of Donkey Taxis. However, this will be a long process. The tourism industry needs to stop promoting trips to the village to ride a donkey. Furthermore, there is a need to find a different form of income for the donkey owners.
In the meantime, it is a victory to improve donkeys lives while they work. You can also see my article Meet the rescued donkeys and mules at El Refugio del Burrito to know more about their work and how to support the organization.
What can travelers do to make a difference?
First of all, we should not ride the donkey taxis in Mijas Pueblo. Second, we can spread the word and make people aware of the issue.
I don’t advise to confront the donkey owners, but simply don’t use their services.
The village is great for exploring by foot, both for children and adults and there are a lot of other fun things to do in Mijas than riding donkeys.
If you want to experience donkeys, it is possible to visit the donkey sanctuary, El Refugio del Burrito which is only an hour away. This is an opportunity to learn more about the animals and witness them in a healthy and happy environment. On Saturdays, they even have exclusive tours where you can get a proper donkey hug.
For more tips on things you should avoid when traveling and what you can do instead, see 9 things NOT to do as a responsible traveler.