Things to see and do


A supply of fresh water was essential for a well defended stronghold like Carisbrooke. For hundreds of years the castle's resident donkeys have drawn up water in the well house. Visit the castle and delight in the demonstrations of the donkeys working the 16th century tread wheel.

A donkey demonstrating the castle well house.

What did the Donkeys do?

The well house at Carisbrooke was once the main supply of water for the castle. Built in the 1580s, a huge oak wheel would be turned to draw a bucket down to the water and back up again. For one bucket, the wheel must be turned 255m, a job that is thought to have originally been performed by prisoners. Since at least 1696 however, it is known that this role was performed by a team of donkeys, a tradition we continue today.

All the donkeys at Carisbrooke have names beginning with the letter 'J'. This tradition was started when Charles I was a prisoner at Carisbrooke. When Charles I wrote letters or was planning his escape route, he always signed his letters with a 'J'. So for 150 years all the donkeys at the castle have had a name beginning with this letter.

Nowadays the castle donkeys provide demonstrations of the well house for our visitors each day the castle is open, spending the rest of their time relaxing in warm stables, being groomed by their supervisors or grazing in the five acre field behind the castle. Their duties are much lighter than they were historically, and we only ask them to turn the wheel twice each demonstration, around 30 seconds of work.

Meet the donkeys

Jack the Donkey


Born: 2000, Isle of Wight

Jack is by far the naughtiest of the castle's donkeys and is also very clever. A true escape artist, he can find his way out of anywhere you put him, whether the stables, the well house or even the field at the rear of the castle. Whenever Jack escapes, he always takes the other donkeys with him. It's a lot of fun for four cheeky donkeys who love sampling new grass they're not normally allowed.

Jack is by far the most affectionate donkey, which means you can never be cross with him, even at his very naughtiest. He loves being part of the fun, and chases the team around each morning until he gets a cuddle.

Jill the Donkey.


Born 2000, Isle of Wight

Jill is Jack's half sister, and a bit of a madam. As a part miniature, she compensates for a lack of size with plenty of attitude. Jill loves her food, and stops at nothing to get at it, regardless of whatever might be in the way.

Although not as sociable as her brother, Jill can be very cuddly, so long as it's on her terms. She's very well behaved, and never gets up to mischief, even if she has picked up escape artistry from her brother. She's a pleasure to groom and hoofpick, and always utterly adorable - especially with her fluffy winter coat.

Jigsaw the Donkey.


Born 2003, New Forest

Jigsaw is our hardest worker, and loves turning the wheel at the well house. In fact, she loves it so much she often turns it a little faster than it was meant to go. Where the other donkeys take 30-40 seconds to turn the wheel, Jigsaw can do it in 20, and she's very proud of this fact.

Jigsaw is a beautiful donkey with a gorgeous coat, and definitely knows it. Sometimes a diva, she loves fussing, and is prone to sulking when she doesn't get her own way. This often backfires for her, as it's adorable and rarely has the desired affect. She'll always cheer up with a good scratch, and in fact, often uses staff members as scratching posts.

Our new Donkey.


Born 2012, New Forest

Juno arrived in November 2017, and was named following a public vote held on our facebook page. One of the youngest in the bunch, he's very curious, and loves to follow the team around and lend a hand in their duties. He loves attention and is often the first to demand a cuddle, and is always happy to meet new visitors.

By nature, he is friendly, playful and intelligent, and he loves a game of tug-o-war with the other donkeys. He is very well behaved most of the time, however you need to be careful; he loves nibbling every new thing in his path.


Born: 2018, Wales


Jester joined the team in tandem with his bestie Jingles, in late 2022. Named by public vote, time will tell as to whether Jester ends up being the joker of the herd. At the moment he's a bit of a gentle giant — strong, but unsure of new things, and even a little shy.

As he's under the age of 5 Jester doesn't do wheelhouse demonstrations at the moment, so instead you can see him in the stables, nuzzling his best friend Jingles.


Born: 2020, Wales


Jingles joined the herd alongside his best mate Jester, in late 2022. Named by public vote, we suspect the Christmas-time arrival of Jingles influenced the public's thinking. He's a very curious creature, and is always the first to investigate any noise. He's also extremely confident when going for a walk with his handlers, as long as Jester is near by.

As he's under the age of 5 Jingles doesn't do wheelhouse demonstrations at the moment, so instead you can see him in the stables, nuzzling his best friend Jester.

Become a Stables Volunteer

We're always looking for new stables volunteers to join the team at Carisbrooke. If you would like the chance to learn more about these beautiful animals, or are interested in developing experience in field of animal care, we would love to hear from you.

To enquire about becoming a stables volunteer, use the button below to contact us by email, or alternatively call us on 01983 522107.

Browse volunteering opportunities at English Heritage.

Contact us

Sponsor a donkey

As a charity we rely upon your kind donations. On average, our donkeys cost £5000 a year - and that’s not including vet bills, staffing costs and facility improvements. Sponsor one of our donkeys today, and you’ll receive a free welcome pack full of information about your chosen donkey, as well as a Christmas update from your donkey letting you know how they’re getting on.


Sponsor a Donkey now.




We are licensed in accordance with the The Animal Welfare (Licensing of Activities Involving Animals) Regulations 2018.

License Holder: Hannah Brewer

License Number: 045278