The prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors in cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia
Ethiopia has 7.1 million donkeys and mules, the majority of which are used as pack animals. Factors such as poor harness quality, long-distance traveling, and heavy cartloads have been linked to reduced work efficiency. Addressing the health and welfare of working equids is imperative not only for the animals but also for the households dependent upon them for livelihood. In developing countries, 75 % of working equids have gait or limb abnormalities, but the relationship between workload and prevalence of lameness is unknown. We examined 450 cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Lameness and workload were assessed through use of a survey and lameness exam. We found that 26.8 % of cart mules were lame, and acute lameness of the forelimb was the most common. Animals with poor harness quality were 2.5 times more likely to have sores and 1.6 times more likely to be lame. Lameness tended to be associated with cartloads >700 kg (P = 0.09), and there was a significant association between multiple-leg lameness and cartload weight (P = 0.03). The presence of sores was the best predictor of lameness (P = 0.001). Possible areas of intervention may include education to reduce average daily workload and improving harness design.
KeywordsHarness Mule Lameness Welfare Cart
The authors would like to acknowledge all participating mule owners for their cooperation and support, Dr. Getachew Mulugeta, and the whole Donkey Sanctuary team in Ethiopia for their hospitality and collaboration, as well as Dr. Rolfe Radcliffe and Dr. Daryl Nydam for facilitating training and evaluation of the lameness exams.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.
- American Association of Equine Practitioners Lameness Exams: Evaluating the Lame Horse, 2005. A Bayer Healthcare Brochure http://www.aaep.org/info/horse-health?publication=836 Accessed 20 October 2014
- Admassu, B., & Sheferaw, Y., 2011. Donkeys, horses and mules-their contribution to people’s livelihoods in Ethiopia, (The Brooke, Addis Ababa)Google Scholar
- Diarra, M. M., Doumbia, A. and McLean, A.K., 2007. Survey of working conditions and management of donkeys in Niono and Segou, Mali, Journal of Animal Science, 85, 139Google Scholar
- Fielding, D. and Pearson, R.A., 1991. Donkeys, mules and horses in tropical agricultural development, (University of Edinburgh, Scotland)Google Scholar
- Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. FAO Statistical Yearbook. 2012. http://faostat.fao.org/site/291/default.aspx Accessed 01 Oct 2012
- Garrett, C., 2012. Making a Packsaddle, (Unpublished book)Google Scholar
- Geiger, M., Hovorka,A. J., 2015. Using physical and emotional parameters to assess donkey welfare in Botswana. Veterinary Record Open, 2.1 e000062.Google Scholar
- Goble, D., 2003. Diagnosis and Management of Lameness in the Horse, (Saunders, St. Louis, Missouri)Google Scholar
- Hagos, Y., 2010. Investigation of health and welfare problems of donkeys and mules involved in the salt bar trade from afar to different parts of northern Ethiopia, In: Working Equids: Learning from Others, New Delhi, 2010, Sixth International Colloquium on Working Equines, 204–207Google Scholar
- Heleski, C. R., Mclean, A., Swanson, J. C., & Grandin, T., 2009. Practical methods for improving the welfare of horses, donkeys and other working draught animals in developing areas, Improving Animal Welfare: A Practical Approach, 252–273Google Scholar
- Iqbal, A., Raza, S., Riaz, M., Pearson, R., Muir, C., & Farrow, M., 2007. Developments and research in equine husbandry and welfare: Some issues in Pakistan. In: The Future for Working Equines, Addis Ababa, 2007, Fifth International Colloquium on Working Equines, 11–14Google Scholar
- Morgan, R., Pearson, R., Muir, C., & Farrow, M., 2007. The epidemiology of lameness in working donkeys in Addis Ababa and the central Oromia region of Ethiopia: A comparative study of urban and rural donkey populations. In: The Future for Working Equines, Addis Ababa, 2007, Fifth International Colloquium on Working Equines, 99–106Google Scholar
- Pearson, R., Nengomasha, E., & Krecek, R., 1999. Meeting the Challenges of Animal Traction: A Resource Book of the Animal Traction Network for Eastern and Southern Africa, (Intermediate Technology Publications, London)Google Scholar
- Stashak, T., 1987. Adams’ Lameness in Horses, (Quest-Meridien Ltd, Beckenham, UK)Google Scholar
- Svendsen, E.D. 1997. The Professional Handbook of the Donkey, (Whittet Books, Ltd, London)Google Scholar