Käthe wants to go. She is still standing tied up in the yard of her human mother Petra Landsberg, but the signal is unmistakable. She stamps impatiently to be groomed and have her hooves cleaned by us, the newly arrived day guests. This creates closeness and trust before the longed-for departure.

Käthe knows all too well what awaits her on the ten-kilometer donkey hike to the Heyerberg chapel and back: a lush feeding landscape of green. So far, she has imposed her will on every companion who leads her on the rope in order to fill her stomach with energy.

Landsberg expresses it this way in the introduction, before she leaves the animal and human to their own devices with a ration of carrots and a route map: “Donkeys have a slightly different understanding of time and migration. They would actually only move on when a meadow had been eaten empty. You have to demonstrate leadership qualities, otherwise you will be turned from a donkey into a monkey.”

That’s easier said than done. If someone treats her too harshly, Käthe will pull out all the stops from the catalog of prejudices against gray animals. Moody, stubborn, stubborn. Then she just stops.

Donkey hiking, where you don’t ride a horse but rather lead the animal on a rope, is a hype in many places. Petra Landsberg, the owner of over a dozen donkeys and a trained photographer on the edge of the Eifel town of Bongard, tries her hand at explanations: “People want to get out into nature, to relax, to get away from all the noise and overstimulation.” She was surprised by her customers: “How many of them are donkey fanatics and have the donkey as their favorite animal because it’s not that perfect.”

But why should a donkey help to flip the switch to shutdown mode? What do donkeys have that other animals don’t? “Donkeys are really addicted to people and radiate an uncanny sense of calm,” says Landsberg, who goes on to say: “Mentally, when you go on a donkey hike, you are with the donkey the whole time. You don’t think about whether you still have to do your tax return or what you’re going to cook tomorrow.”

A short interjection during the self-experiment: true – but not entirely. Me, my wife and the younger daughter set off with two donkeys – the other one is called Trude – and quickly learned that it’s not just the long-eared people’s mind. But also physically. And in constant readiness. Sometimes they suddenly push to the left, sometimes unexpectedly to the right, to celebrate their feeding sprees.

We bipeds are powerless against a mass of 200 kilos. If necessary, a carrot will encourage you to continue your hike. Landsberg calls it “magic carrot, the donkey’s chocolate.”

Donkey hikers automatically become donkey understanders, donkey tamers and donkey drivers. Not always with success. Ali, led by Wera Köhnke and Christian Ratovonony, who have traveled from Berlin to the Eifel, is already in sight of the farm in the middle of the forest path for reasons that are unclear.

Köhnke tries to push a little from behind. At the front, Ratovonony gently pulls on the rope, practices persuasion and finds “it’s not that relaxing right now.” That doesn’t change the fact that he has taken Donkey to his heart. Ratovonony, who comes from Madagascar, credibly claims that he has “never seen a donkey in the flesh”. That’s why he’s here, very close.

At some point, Ali’s blockade dissipates. “We should not only ask whether the donkey suits us, but also: Do ​​we suit the donkey?” says retired geography teacher Köhnke and talks about mutual respect.

You can’t be mad at the donkeys if they become stubborn on the paths through forests and fields or drift away towards tempting temptations. The crushing of stalks, meadow flowers and ferns becomes a familiar accompanying sound and mixes with the chirping of birds and the babbling of a stream. I can’t shake the feeling that Trude and Käthe, who are undoubtedly playing with us, are always smiling thoughtfully to themselves.

“Donkeys have their own opinions. In terms of character, some people could learn a lesson from this,” says Manuela Bollendorf from Nuremberg, who is on the road with her husband Heinz and donkey Jupp.

“A donkey like this is a good therapist for getting to know yourself,” she says and looks at her husband slightly strangely when he adds: “Donkey hiking is also like a little couples therapy together.”

Heinz Bollendorf is also happy about a different type of hiking, free from record hunting and summit storms: “You can finally travel at a tolerable speed: very comfortably, without sweating, not uphill.”

The farm is in sight. It took us almost five hours to cover ten kilometers. Trude and Käthe imposed their rhythm on us. We concentrated on the donkeys with an alert mind and – almost more importantly – full physical effort, which had its consequences: a pulling sensation in the back and muscle pain in our arms.

To be honest, the family agrees: we found it more tense than relaxing; the animals tested our patience. But: As Petra Landsberg predicted, we didn’t think about the tax return or cooking tomorrow. At the speed of a donkey we have forgotten the daily grind and haste.


The guide prices for a tour lasting several hours are 65 to 80 euros for a donkey and two adults; Depending on the provider, there is a small surcharge of 10 euros per person for children and young people.


You are not allowed to ride the donkeys. You should always walk at the height of the donkey’s head and hold the lead rope. Carrots are eaten with a clenched fist, not with two fingers – because fingers could be mistaken for carrots. You should wear sturdy shoes and bring sun and rain protection.


In addition to half-day/day tours, there are multi-day donkey treks with luggage in Germany and other countries:

Eifel: Donkey hiking Eifel (www.eselwandern-eifel.de), Naturerlebnishof Kartsteinhöhe (www.naturerlebnishof-kartsteinhoehe.de)

Bayern: Asinella Eselfarm (http://asinella.com), Eselwandern Bayern (www.eselwandern.bayern); Eselhof Daxstein (www.esel-touren.de)

Austria: Donkey hikes Waldviertel (www.eselwandelen-waldviertel.at)

Switzerland: Letzihof Wildhaus (www.esel-wandelen.ch), Denise Graf (www.picnick-mit-esel.ch)

Spain: Borro Trek (www.burrotrek.com), Burros Trekking (http://burros-trekking.com), Bizipoza Tours (http://www.bizipozatours.com)

Italy, France, Germany: Donkey hiking adventure trips (http://eselwandern.de), ReNatour (www.renatour.de)