Can donkey behavior and cognition be used to trace back, explain, or forecast moon cycle and weather events?

Francisco Javier Navas González, Jordi Jordana Vidal, Gabriela Pizarro Inostroza, Ander Arando Arbulu, Juan Vicente Delgado Bermejo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Donkeys have been reported to be highly sensitive to environmental changes. Their 8900–8400-year-old evolution process made them interact with diverse environmental situations that were very distant from their harsh origins. These changing situations not only affect donkeys’ short-term behavior but may also determine their long-term cognitive skills from birth. Thus, animal behavior becomes a useful tool to obtain past, present or predict information from the environmental situation of a particular area. We performed an operant conditioning test on 300 donkeys to assess their response type, mood, response intensity, and learning capabilities, while we simultaneously registered 14 categorical environmental factors. We quantified the effect power of such environmental factors on donkey behavior and cognition. We used principal component analysis (CATPCA) to reduce the number of factors affecting each behavioral variable and built categorical regression (CATREG) equations to model for the effects of potential factor combinations. Effect power ranged from 7.9% for the birth season on learning (p < 0.05) to 38.8% for birth moon phase on mood (p < 0.001). CATPCA suggests the percentage of variance explained by a four-dimension-model (comprising the dimensions of response type, mood, response intensity and learning capabilities), is 75.9%. CATREG suggests environmental predictors explain 28.8% of the variability of response type, 37.0% of mood, and 37.5% of response intensity, and learning capabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Article number215
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


  • Cognition
  • Cold wave
  • Learning abilities
  • Lunar phases
  • Meteorological conditions


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