Livestock Research for Rural Development 26 (7) 2014 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Prevalence of gastrointestinal parasites of horses and donkeys in Kurfa Chale District, East Hararghe, Ethiopia

A Sultan, G Ayele, B Tadesse and A Ahmed

School of Veterinary Medicine, Collage of Medical and Health Science, Wollega University, P.O. Box 395, Nekemte, Ethiopia


Across sectional study was conducted from June 2013 to September 2013 in Kurfa Chale District to identify the major gastrointestinal parasites and to determine their prevalence rate in Horses and Donkeys. A total of 406 equines (97 Horses and 309 Donkeys) were randomly selected and fecal samples from them were subjected to qualitative Coprological examination for identification of eggs of gastro intestinal tract (GIT) helminthes.


Out of 406 randomly selected samples, 307 samples were positive for parasite of different species (spp) with an overall prevalence of 75.62%. The prevalence of GIT helminthosis in Horse and Donkey was 14.43% and 94.82% respectively. Out of 307 positive samples, the spp of parasite found were Strongyles spp 72.66%, Parascaris equorum (P. equorum) 15.51%, Gastrophilus spp 6.89%, Anoplocephala spp 2.2% and Oxiuris equi (O. equi) 1.47%. Co-infection among the GIP parasite was also seen in Donkey. There was significant deference between the GIT parasite prevalence on the host animals (p<0.05) in which high prevalence is seen in Donkeys. There was also significant deference (p<0.05) in the prevalence between male and female Equines in case of Strongyle spp in which females were highly infected.


From the present study it can be concluded that the prevalence of GIT parasites in Equine was high especially in Donkeys. Therefore to control and prevent the diseases, strategic deworming using broad spectrum anti-helminthic drugs and rotational grazing program should be implemented.

Key words: equine, eggs, Gastrophilus, larvae, Parascaris, Strongyle


There are an estimated 110 million Equine in the developing world (FAOSTAT 2008) where they provide an essential, widely used resource for traction and under saddle as a means of transport due to economic or topographical constraints on motorized alternatives (Ramaswamy 1994, Gebre 1999). Ethiopia possesses approximately half of Africa’s equine population with 37%, 58%, and 40% of all African Donkeys, Horses and Mules respectively (Demelash and Moges 2006). Among these equines the Donkeys are widely distributed throughout Ethiopia. They are commonly found in the dry and mountain areas (Alemu and Azage 2004).


Equines are one of the most important animals and mostly intimately associated with man. They have enormous contribution through their involvement in different social and economic sector. In Ethiopia, they have been considered as beasts of burden for long period of time and still render valuable services mostly as pack animals, throughout the country particularly in areas where modern means of transportation are absent, unaffordable cost or inaccessible (Abayneh et al 2002). Studies have shown that Donkeys are important animals to the resource poor communities in rural and urban areas of Ethiopia, providing traction power and transportation service at low cost. The use of equine in door-to-door transportation services also provides urban dwellers with opportunity of income generation (Tesfaye and Curran 2005, Demelash and Moges 2006).


Despite the huge number and increasing importance of equines in the Ethiopian economy, knowledge about the health problems affecting their welfare is also limited in most parts of the country. The care and management provided for equine is very low and relatively the attention given to Donkeys has been far below to what it deserves (Ayele et al 2006). Many studies looking at the association between poverty and animal disease identified gastrointestinal tract (GIT) parasitism as one of the most important problems for equine in developing countries. In Ethiopia several studies have shown that equines usually harbor GIT parasites. Currently Alemayehu and Etaferahu (2013) reported the prevalence of GIT parasite in the three Equine species (Horse Mule and Donkey) at northeast of the country as 60.8%, 72.3% and 77.3% respectively. The commonly identified parasites are large and small Strongylus, Parascaris, Pinworm, Stomach worms and Botfly, and Liver flukes (Pardey et al 1994, Feseha 1997). Of all these parasites Strongylus and Parascaris are considered as the important and pathogenic helminthes in equines.


Although some studies have been carried out in other parts of Ethiopia, such kind of study has not been conducted in Kurfa Chale District of East Hararghe Zone where equines are the backbone of the economy as the other parts of Ethiopia. Therefore, the objectives of the present study were to identify the gastrointestinal parasites of Horse and Donkey and to determine their prevalence in the study area.

Material and methods

Study area


Kurfa Chale District is located in the eastern part of Ethiopia at about 550 km away from the capital city, Addis Ababa. The rainfall pattern of the area is characterized by low rainy season from February to May and high rain season from July to September. The dry season extends from October to January. The mean annual rain in the study area varies from 550 mm to 850 mm in low land and southern mountain range, respectively and has an annual average temperature range of 14.50C-34.60C. The entire territory of Kurfa Chale District rests on an elevation ranging 950 m.a.s.l with two agro-ecological zones; the kola (below 1500m) and Woina Dega (Above 1500m). The District has 19 peasant associations (PAs) (KCWAO 2008).


Study animals and sampling method


The study animals were Horse and Donkeys are kept under traditional production system in Kurfa Chale District. From 19 PAs in the district 5 PA were randomly selected and a total 406 animals of both sexes and all age categories of were selected from both species using simple random sampling method. As Mules are rarely found in the area, they were not considered in the study.


Sample Size


The sample size was calculated by using the formula described by Thrusfield (2005).


Where, n = required sample size, Pexp = expected prevalence, d = desired absolute precision. As there was no study similar study so far conducted on the area, the 50% expected frequency of the disease were used to estimate the total sample size. In our study a total of 406 of Equine (Horse and Donkey) were examined.


Study Design


A cross sectional study was conducted from June to September 2013 to identify the major GIT parasites involved and to determine their prevalence rates in Horse and Donkey during study period.


Study procedure


From the 19 PAs found in the district, 5 PAs were randomly selected and the 81 households (herd owners) were chosen from each PA who have equine were randomly selected. The herd size per household range from 2 to 3 equines. One animal from each herd were selected randomly and subjected to qualitative Coprological examination to identify the major GIT parasites involved and to determine their prevalence rates in equines. The age of the selected equines was determined by dentition (Crane 1997) and the animals were grouped into three age categories. Equine under two years of age were classed as young, those in range of two to ten years were classed as adult and those beyond ten years were classed as old. The sex of the Horses and Donkey were also recorded.


Coprological examination


Fecal samples were taken directly from the rectum using clean diagnostic glove or taken immediately when the animal was seen defecting and it was placed in universal bottle with strict sanitation and transported to the parasitological laboratory of Kurfa Chale District for processing. For this study both floatation and sedimentation technique was employed to concentrate parasite eggs in the faeces and examined microscopically (10x and 40x) for presence of parasite ova following procedures described below. Identification of the eggs was made on the basis of their morphology (Soulsby 1982).


Floatation technique


From collected sample, 3 gram of fecal sample weighted and put in to universal bottle and 42 ml of floatation fluid (NaCl) was added then mixed thoroughly. The presence of egg was appreciated using cover slip and test tube method (Urquhart et al 1996).


Sedimentation technique


From Collected sample, 3 gram of fecal sample weighted and put in to the beaker and 42 ml of water was added and mixed thoroughly for sedimentation. Then 1% methylene blue was added to the sediment and presences of eggs were appreciated using cover slip method (Urquhart et al 1996).


Data Management and Analysis


The collected data was coded and entered in to computer Microsoft Excel and the prevalence of parasites was determined using descriptive statistics. The association between prevalence of parasites and species, age and sex of animals examined were analyzed using Statistical Program of Social Sciences (SPSS) version 16.0 software packages (SPSS Inc, Chicago, IL, USA). For all analysis performed, 95% CI and P-value < 0.05 was set for statistical significance of an estimate.


Descriptive statistics


Out of 97 examined Horse, 50 female and 47 are males and of 309 Donkeys, 174 are female and 135 are male. Therefore, a total of 406 equines (224 (Female) and 182 (Male)) were diagnosed. The average numbers of animal per household were two to three Equines per herd. Up on verbal consent, all of the herd owners were compliant for the study.

Overall Prevalence

Out of 406 samples randomly selected from both species, 307 samples were positive for parasites of different species which gives an overall prevalence of 75.62%. The overall prevalence of GIT parasites in Horse and Donkey species of Kurfa Chale District is shown in Table 1. There was a significant difference between the gastrointestinal parasites prevalence of Horse and Donkey.

Table 1: Over all prevalence of GIT parasites in Horses and Donkeys in Kurfa Chale District


Number of animal examined

Number  of Positive

Prevalence (%)

P - value





< 0.05











Types of Parasites and their Respective Prevalence

On those 307 infected samples, the species of parasite found were Strongyle spp, P. equorum, and Anopleocephalus spp, Gastrophilus spp, and O. equi. The prevalence helminthes of GIT parasites and the co-infection pattern is shown in Table 2. The relative prevalence of different GIT parasites among the sex category of equines is also summarized in Table 3. There was significant difference in the prevalence these parasites between Horse and Donkey for Strongyle spp and P. equorum. Strongyle plus P. equorum co-infection was also significantly different between the two equine species.


If we consider animal sex, there was also a significant difference in the prevalence rates between male and female equines in case of Strongyles spp and Gastrophilus spp (Table 3). However, there is no significant difference in the prevalence between different age groups of equines in relation to the type of parasite (Table 4).

Table 2: The relative prevalence of GIT parasites and their co-infections in Horse and Donkey

Types of parasites

Number  of positive

Prevalence (%)



P- value

Strongyle spp.





< 0.05

P. equorum





< 0.05

Gastrophilus spp.






O. equi






Anopleocephalus spp.           






Strongyle plus P. equorum




53 (17.1)


Strongylus plus Gastrophilus




25 (8.09)


P. equorum plus Gastrophilus




1 (0.32)


These results are obtained from total 406 examined Equines (97 Horse and 309 Donkeys).

Table  3: The relative prevalence of different GIT parasites among the sex category of Equines.

Helminthes ova





Female (%)

Male (%)

P - value

Strongyles spp.




< 0.05

Parascaris  equorum




Gastrophilus spp





Oxyuris equi





Anopleocephalus spp





Table 4: Relative prevalence of GIT parasites among the three ages category of equines

Helminthes ova

Age group





Strongyles spp





Parascaris equorum



32(50. 8%)


Gastrophilus spp





Oxyuris equi


2 (33.3%)



Anopleocephalus spp


3 (33.3%)



The number of examined equines with age is as follows:  young (n=102), adult (n=254) and old (n=50).


Out of the 406 examined animals, 307 (75.6%) equines were found positive for different types of GIT parasites with highest prevalence (94.8%) in Donkeys and the lowest prevalence (14.43%) in Horse. The overall prevalence recorded in this present study was lower compared with work of Yoseph et al (2001), and Fikru et al (2005) who have reported 100%, and 98.2% in Equines of Wonchi high lands of Wollo province and western highlands of Oromia, respectively. This variation could be due to the variation in management and ecological condition such as, temperature, altitude and humidity (Muleta 2005). The present 94.82% prevalence in Donkeys was slightly lower than reports of Ayele et al (2006) who have reported 100% in Dugda Bora District. This variation could arise due to climatic condition variation and management system of the study area. Most of the Horses in the present study were taken from Semi-arid (Woina Dega), while most of Donkeys were taken from arid (kola) climatic conditions. On the other hand, most of Horses in this study were cart Horses and feeding system was stall feeding method while grazing was the only method of feeding system in Donkeys (Ayele et al 2006). Mezgebu et al (2013) also reported similar finding that there is higher occurrence rate of GIT parasitism in donkeys than in horse. The observed higher parasitism in donkeys could be attributed to the fact that less attention is given to these animals that is by far lower than their workload (Alemayehu and Etaferahu 2013).


The prevalence of strongyle spp in Equine was 72.7%. This figure was less than the finding of Yoseph et al (2001), Muleta (2005), Fikru et al (2005) who reported prevalence of 100%, 100%, and 98.2% in Equine of Wonchi, highlands of Wollo province and western highlands of Oromia, respectively. Compared to Horse, the prevalence of strongyle spp in Donkeys is high and this was in agreement with the work of Ayele et al (2006) who reported higher prevalence in Donkey of Dugda Bora District. The difference in Strongyles spp prevalence between Sexes might be due to the fact that females are found to have higher infection rates as they might have lower immunity due to gestation and lactation as stated by Ram (2009). The co-infection pattern observed in this study showed that donkey has the high chance of concomitant exposure to different GIT parasites. Similar findings were reported by Yoseph et al (2001).


The prevalence of  P. equorum was 18.7% in Donkeys and is in agreement with work of Yoseph et al (2001) and Fikru et al (2005) who reported prevalence of 15.7% and 17.3% respectively. Although there is variation in topography and climate, the similarity between these two findings may be due to the high resistant of the eggs of P. equorum due to desiccations. Soulsby (1982) has stated that P. equorum eggs are very resistant to adverse conditions like drying or freezing and the larva rarely hatch and infection usually takes place through ingestion of the eggs.


Gastrophilus larvae were observed on gross fecal examination with infection rate of 6.89%. This result is in agreement with work of Yoseph et al (2001) who reported 5.8% in Equine of Wonchi. However, it is lower as compared with work of Ayele et al (2006) who reported Gastrophilus larva infection rate of 20.9% in Donkeys. This might be due to the difference in the season of the study and environmental difference between the study areas. The difference in the prevalence of Gastrophilus among the two sex groups might be due to the fact that males are commonly used for high work load of transportation and high contact of males with different herds that enhance the transmission of infective eggs.


The present prevalence (2.2%) of Anoplocephala spp was found to be lower compared with reports of Ayele et al (2006) who reported 7.6% in Donkeys of Dugda Bora and the 5.7% reported by Adem and Mengesha (2010) in Equine at Asela. This variation could be due to the variation in environmental nature of the regions characterized by year-round moist humid conditions which tend to favor high prevalence of oribatted mites. Soulsby (1982) indicated that the occurrence Anoplocephala spp is associated with the vector prevalence.

O.  equi with prevalence rate of 1.47% was very low compared with the work of Ayele et al (2006) and Yoseph et al (2001) who reported 6% and 32.4%, respectively. The low prevalence in this study might be the effect of relative higher temperature in the present study area which desiccates the highly susceptible O.  equi eggs. The parasite is ubiquitous but greater prevalence in areas of high rainfall (Radostits et al 2007).



The authors would like to acknowledge the Kurfa Chale District Veterinary Agency and the livestock farmers for provision of valuable information and facility for this study. We also thankful to Mr. Melese Dinku, Mr. Eden Wolde, Mr. Gobeze Abate and Mr. Emedin Hassen from Wollega University, School of Veterinary Medicine for their contribution during the study.


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Received 5 May 2014; Accepted 22 May 2014; Published 1 July 2014

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