Obese donkeys are susceptible to a hyperlipaemic crisis characterised by high plasma triglyceride concentrations. In this study, the relationships between the body condition of 24 donkeys and their basal lipid metabolism were investigated. Plasma cholesterol, triglyceride and lipoprotein cholesterol concentrations were measured in healthy donkeys classified according to their body condition as thin, ideal or obese. There were significant differences between the groups in the concentrations of triglyceride and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL), which increased in concentration with body condition (P less than 0.05). Cholesterol, low density lipoprotein (LDL) and high density lipoprotein (HDL) concentrations were similar in all the groups. Triglyceride and VLDL concentrations were positively correlated with body weight (r = 0.82) and plasma free fatty acid concentration (r = 0.48). There were no significant differences in basal plasma concentrations of insulin or cortisol. These results suggest that obesity in donkeys is associated with changes in lipid and lipoprotein metabolism that might predispose the animals to hyperlipaemia.