THEY look like the cute and cuddly creatures straight out of a Disney film – but they have a darker side and they’re not afraid to show it.
Just days after attacking a nurse at a beauty spot, Hampshire’s New Forest donkeys are at it again.
Over the weekend the donkeys bit a terrified young girl – the same day as hitting the headlines for chasing and sinking their teeth into a fleeing woman and her daughter.
It belies their fluffy fur, chocolate eyes and lovable long faces evoking memories of children’s favourite Eeyore.
Yet despite their mournful looks and docile demeanour, they harbour a more sinister side far removed from the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. The latest attack came less than an hour after the Daily Echo visited Hatchet Pond to investigate and film them with tourists.
The creatures even waited until the media spotlight was out of their gaze before turning their wrath on visitors feeding ducks at the waterside spot.
It has caused a fierce debate over how people should conduct themselves around animals in the New Forest and calls for tourists to stop feeding them.
Two donkeys were pestering a man for food when one lashed out and bit the girl as she was running past.
John Bayliss, 60, from Bevois Valley watched the drama unfold.
He said: “Two donkeys were trying to bully a man for food while he was feeding the swans.
“Then a family walked in between them and a girl of about 12 started running and the donkey turned round and bit her on the back.
“She was screaming ‘daddy he bit me’.”
The girl was not thought to be seriously hurt.
But Mr Bayliss also reported seeing another pensioner pushing away two donkeys cornering him for food at the waterside.
As previously reported, Jenny Caine and her five-year-old daughter were surrounded by five donkeys while taking bread to feed ducks.
Miss Caine, 38, of New Milton, was bitten on the back and knocked to the ground, causing her to drop her daughter Isabelle.
Someone eventually told the frightened nurse to throw away the bread and run in the other direction.
But the animals quickly regrouped and gave chase before she eventually got away.
Amber Rudderforth, 18, from Fawley, was surrounded by five donkeys there a month ago after packing up a picnic with friend Sarah Muston and her oneyear- old son.
They were only saved when an elderly man stepped in and pulled the animals’ collars.
She called for a separate picnic area to be created: “It was really scary as they were strong and pushing.
“As it’s a public area and there are cases of biting maybe they should section part of it off so people can eat.”
Fellow visitors were amazed that the creatures have attacked someone.
One family admitted the animals chased them in pursuit of food, but were quick to dismiss them as aggressive.
Most stressed using “common sense” when approaching the creatures to prevent frightening and distressing them.
Others condemned people for feeding them so they would continuously approach people for food.
Tourist Terry Sharp is visiting friends in Southampton from his native Australia.
The 72-year-old said: “You have to let them approach you and not take them out of their comfort zone.
“You become a menace to them and they don’t know what you are going to do to them. We have the same problem with kangaroos in Australia – especially the big ones.”
On the trail of the Forest's donkeys.
WHEN the Echo visited the beauty spot it was immediately clear that donkeys ruled the roost, writes Maxwell Kusi-Obodum.
A small queue of cars had built up outside the tranquil waterside spot off the B3054.
Drivers are being prevented from entering and leaving the grounds because a group of donkeys are blocking the dirt track leading into the car park.
The three animals stare straight ahead flicking their tails in a stubborn stand-off.
A female passenger attempts to break the deadlock, getting out of her car and approaching the nearest one.
Tourists look tensely on as she places her hands on its shoulders and tries to coax it towards the grass.
But the animal simply shuffles a few footsteps before coming to a stop.
The red-faced woman returns to her car and the driver is forced to edge onto the grass to pass it, while others wait before they move on their own accord.
It is clear this is donkey territory.
But despite this early event the animals are keen to welcome their human visitors of all ages.
A group of teenagers are sitting on the grass eating ice creams attracting plenty of attention.
The youngsters stroke them and pose for pictures with them.
The beasts eagerly jostle and position themselves towards food while enjoying the companionship.
Apart from one animal snorting and stamping its feet when someone moves an ice cream away from it, the atmosphere is relaxed.
Meanwhile a young girl and two pensioners are cuddling a foal which is playing around under the watchful eye of its mother.
Next to the pond two donkeys seem more interested in grooming each other when I approach to stroke them.
Others sheltering under some trees appear nervous at first but are good as gold when I start petting them.