Steve and Cindy Taylor are mini fans as well, but they like theirs alive and with fur. Both retired from the Anniston Army Depot, the Oxford couple raises miniature donkeys, a special breed of animal typically no taller than 3 feet.
They sell them from time to time – for between $400 and $1,500 – but don’t have any for sale right now.
The animals make great pets, Taylor said, and good show donkeys as well. He hasn’t yet attended a livestock show held in Shelbyville, Tenn., each year, but he plans to soon. Several days of the show are dedicated to miniature donkeys, when owners groom and shine their animals just like show dogs.
“They’re really good for people that have small farms,” Taylor said. Taylor keeps his donkeys on about one acre of his Oxford farm on McIntosh Road.
Yes, miniature donkeys can kick just like the regular-sized versions, he said, but it’s not nearly as painful when it happens.
The Taylors have kept the animals for about five years. They’d seen one many years ago and it piqued their interest.
“At the time the market was pretty good, but now the market has nose-dived,” Taylor said, speaking of the cost of the animals.
A drought in Texas two years ago drove up the price of hay – which makes up the largest share of the animals’ diet – and that hurt the market, Taylor explained.
“They had to start selling donkeys off for whatever they could get out of them,” Taylor said. “They flooded the market full of cheap donkeys and that brought the price down.”
If hay prices are hurting the mini-donkey market, the French are helping another variety, called the micro-miniature donkey, Taylor explained.
The smallest version of the donkey is becoming very popular with in France, he said, and are being shipped overseas in large numbers at costs of more than $3,000 in addition to the price of the animal.
“Most of them don’t want anything over 30 inches. They kind of started the micro trend,” Taylor said. But breeders worry that that the French fad of micro minis will end up shortening the lifespan of the animals.
“Some breeders aren’t getting into micro minis, and I agree with them. Donkeys weren’t meant to get that small,” Taylor said, standing beside his donkey corral Friday.
He worries breeding donkeys that small could lead to birth defects and other health problems, but the standard miniature donkeys are very healthy animals, he said, and can live to be 35 years old.
Colors vary among the animals. Gray is least desirable, Taylor said. Browns are a bit better, but the solid black or black-and-white spotted donkeys are the best sellers today, he said.
It doesn’t take much to care for the animals, he said. A small piece of land and fresh hay, and they need their hooves trimmed at least twice a year, Taylor said, but four times is better.
Miniature donkeys originated from the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, according to the National Miniature Donkey Association, a non-profit that promotes the breed in the U.S..
Taylor said while he doesn’t have any for sale, that doesn’t seem to stop people from pulling off the road to see his animals, or kids from rolling down car windows to shout out a loud “Hee-haw” as they drive past, and that’s just fine with him.
Visit the Taylors’ website, devoted to their miniature donkeys, at www.taylorlakesfarm.com.
Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3563. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.