The work performance of two teams of four donkeys (heavy, 680 kg and light, 460 kg) and one pair of Jersey crossbred oxen (646 kg) was compared when they ploughed 4 hi day on four types of soil (clay, redsoil, sandy soil and sandy clay) using two types of plough, a conventional ox plough (40 kg) and a lighter prototype, the ‘Walco’ plough (32 kg) on an experimental farm. Work parameters were also measured with farmers’ cattle and donkey teams ploughing on f arms in Matobo and Nkayi districts. Working speed, power and effective field capacity (ETC) were higher for the ox-team (1·03 m/s, 920 W and 14·5 h/ha for the conventional plough and 0·99 m/s, 745 W and 13·9 h/hafor the Walco plough) and the heavier donkey team (0·87 m/s, 689 W and 14·2 h/hafor the conventional plough and 0·87 m/s, 787 W and 17·3 h/hafor the Walco plough) than for the lighter donkey team (0·59 m/s, 461 W and 22·1 h/hafor the conventional plough and 0·64 m/s, 445 W and 23·4 h/hafor the Walco plough). Expressed as a proportion of live weight or metabolic live weight there were no significant differences in draught forces exerted between teams but power output per unit live weight was greater in the ox-team than in the light donkey team but similar to that in the heavy donkey team. The Walco plough required a lower force (742 N) to operate than the conventional plough (816 N) but apart from this did not have any marked advantages over the conventional plough. On-farm, team sizes of donkeys varied from three to seven animals (team weight 340 kg to 1007 kg) and cattle team sizes from two to four animals (team weights 558 to 1709 kg). Regardless of team number, the heavier teams tended to out-perform the lighter teams (speed range 0·63 to 1·08 m/s, power 395 to 1136 W, EFC 9·1 to 25 h/ha)) with one exception, a well trained team of two oxen (team weight 879 kg, speed 1·02 m/s, power 775 W, EFC 9·1 h/ha). Donkeys tended to plough at a slower pace than oxen, with a lower power output, although when weight differences between teams were equalized (four heavy donkeys compared with two oxen), then there was little to chose between the species. Results suggested that teams of three or more donkeys can effectively be used for ploughing on the soils tested. The results highlighted the importance that team live weight and training/experience have in determining work performance.