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The donkey or ass is a
domestic animal This page gives a list of domestic animals, also including a list of domestication of animals, animals which are or may be currently undergoing the process of domestication and animals that have an extensive relationship with humans beyond simple pr ...
in the horse family. It derives from the
African wild ass The African wild ass or African wild donkey (''Equus africanus'') is a wild member of the horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of org ...
, ''Equus africanus'', and has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in
underdeveloped Underdevelopment, relating to international development International development or global development is a broad concept denoting the idea that societies and countries have differing levels of "development" on an international scale. It is th ...
countries, where they are used principally as draught or
pack animal A pack animal, also known as a sumpter animal or beast of burden, is an individual or type of working animal A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one grou ...
s. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries. A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny or jennet; a young donkey is a
foal A foal is an equine up to one year old; this term is used mainly for horses. More specific terms are colt (horse), colt for a male foal and filly for a female foal, and are used until the horse is three or four. When the foal is nursing from its ...

foal
. Jack donkeys are often used to mate with female
horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to ...

horse
s to produce
mule A mule is the of a male (jack) and a female (). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of s. Of the two between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a , which is the offspring of a female donkey () a ...

mule
s; the biological "reciprocal" of a mule, from a
stallion A stallion is a male that has not been (). Stallions follow the and of their , but within that standard, the presence of s such as may give stallions a thicker, "cresty" neck, as well as a somewhat more muscular physique as compared to fema ...

stallion
and jenny as its parents instead, is called a
hinny A hinny is a equine that is the offspring of a male (a ) and a female (a jenny). It is the to the more common , which is the product of a male donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a ). The hinny is distinctive from the mule both in and as ...
. Asses were first
domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secure a more predictable supply of resources from that sec ...
around 3000 BC, probably in
Egypt Egypt ( ar, مِصر, Miṣr), officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, is a spanning the and the of . It is bordered by the to , the () and to , the to the east, to , and to . In the northeast, the , which is the northern arm of the R ...

Egypt
or
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
, and have spread around the world. They continue to fill important roles in many places today. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass is a critically
endangered species An endangered species is a species In biology, a species is the basic unit of biological classification, classification and a taxonomic rank of an organism, as well as a unit of biodiversity. A species is often defined as the largest group ...
. As
beasts of burden Beast or Beasts may refer to: Computers and games * Beast (card game) Beast or Beasts may refer to: Computers and games * Beast (card game), English name of historical French game, the first card game to use bidding * BEAST (computer security) ...
and companions, asses and donkeys have worked together with humans for millennia.


Nomenclature

Traditionally, the scientific name for the donkey is ''Equus asinus asinus'' based on the
principle of priority 270px, '' valid name. Priority is a fundamental principle of modern botanical nomenclature and zoological nomenclature. Essentially, it is the principle of recognising the first valid application of a name to a plant or animal. There are two aspec ...
used for scientific names of animals. However, the
International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature The International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature (ICZN) is an organization dedicated to "achieving stability and sense in the scientific naming of animals". Founded in 1895, it currently comprises 24 commissioners from 18 countries. Organ ...
ruled in 2003 that if the domestic species and the wild species are considered subspecies of one another, the scientific name of the wild species has priority, even when that subspecies was described after the domestic subspecies. This means that the proper scientific name for the donkey is ''Equus africanus asinus'' when it is considered a subspecies and ''Equus asinus'' when it is considered a species. At one time, the
synonym A synonym is a word, morpheme A morpheme is the smallest meaningful lexical item in a language. A morpheme is not a word. The difference between a morpheme and a word is that a morpheme bound and free morphemes, sometimes does not stand alone, ...
''ass'' was the more common term for the donkey. The first recorded use of ''donkey'' was in either 1784 or 1785. While the word ''ass'' has
cognate In linguistics Linguistics is the scientific study of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed language, sign language) and writing. Most langu ...
s in most other
Indo-European languages The Indo-European languages are a language family A language family is a group of language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, based on speech and gesture (spoken language), Signed language, sign, or o ...
, ''donkey'' is an
etymologically Etymology ()The New Oxford Dictionary of English (1998) – p. 633 "Etymology /ˌɛtɪˈmɒlədʒi/ the study of the class in words and the way their meanings have changed throughout time". is the study of the history of words. By extension, t ...
obscure word for which no credible cognate has been identified. Hypotheses on its derivation include the following: * perhaps from Spanish for its
don Don, don or DON and variants may refer to: Places *Don, BeninDon is a town in Benin, Africa. It has a population of 696,969. Nearest large airports are Cadjehoun Airport, Cotonou Cadjehoun in Cotonou and Lomé-Tokoin Airport, Lomé-Tokoin in Lom ...
-like gravity; the donkey was also known as "the King of Spain's trumpeter". * perhaps a diminutive of ''
dun 250px, Ruined dun in Lewis ">Isle_of_Lewis.html" ;"title="Loch Steinacleit on Isle of Lewis">Lewis A dun is an ancient or medieval fort. In Ireland and Britain it is mainly a kind of hillfort and also a kind of Atlantic roundhouse. Etymolo ...
'' (dull grayish-brown), a typical donkey colour. * perhaps from the name ''Duncan''. * perhaps of imitative origin. From the 18th century, ''donkey'' gradually replaced ''ass'' and ''jenny'' replaced ''she-ass'', which is now considered archaic. The change may have come about through a tendency to avoid pejorative terms in speech and may be comparable to the substitution in North American English of ''
rooster The chicken (''Gallus gallus domesticus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another ...

rooster
'' for ''cock'', or that of ''rabbit'' for ''coney'', which was formerly
homophonic In music, homophony (;, Greek language, Greek: ὁμόφωνος, ''homóphōnos'', from ὁμός, ''homós'', "same" and φωνή, ''phōnē'', "sound, tone") is a Texture (music), texture in which a primary Part (music), part is supported by o ...
with ''cunny'' (a variation of the word
cunt ''Cunt'' () is a vulgar word for the vulva The vulva (plural: vulvas or vulvae; derived from Latin for wrapper or covering) consists of the external . The vulva includes the (or mons veneris), , , , , , , the , , and and vestibular ...
). By the end of the 17th century, changes in pronunciation of both ''ass'' and ''
arse Arse or ARSE may refer to: * Arse, Irish, British, Australian, South African and regional Canadian English for the buttocks ("ass" in American English) * Arse, the name for the Iberian settlement of modern-day Sagunto * Arse (district), a district ...

arse
'' had caused them to become homophones in some varieties of English. Other words used for the ass in English from this time include ''cuddy'' in Scotland, ''neddy'' in southwestern England and ''dicky'' in southeastern England; ''moke'' is documented in the 19th century and may be of Welsh or Romani origin. ''Burro'' is a word for donkey in both Spanish and
Portuguese Portuguese may refer to: * anything of, from, or related to the country and nation of Portugal ** Portuguese cuisine, traditional foods ** Portuguese language, a Romance language *** Portuguese dialects, variants of the Portuguese language ** Portug ...

Portuguese
. In the United States, it is commonly applied to the
feral in St. Kilda, Scotland, St Kilda, Scotland A feral animal or plant (from la, fera, 'a wild beast') is one that lives in the wild but is descended from Domestication, domesticated specimens. As with an introduced species, the introduction of ...
donkeys that live west of the
Rocky Mountains The Rocky Mountains, also known as the Rockies, are a major mountain range A mountain range is a series of mountains ranged in a line and connected by high ground. A mountain system or mountain belt is a group of mountain ranges with similari ...

Rocky Mountains
; in some areas it may also refer to any small donkey.


History

The genus ''Equus'', which includes all extant equines, is believed to have evolved from ''
Dinohippus ''Dinohippus'' (Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 milli ...
'', via the intermediate form ''
Plesippus ''Plesippus'' is a genus of extinct horse from the Pleistocene of North America. Although commonly seen as a subgenus of ''Equus'' recent cladistic analysis considers it a distinct genus. Species Two species are recognized by Barron et al. (2019) ...
''. One of the oldest species is ''
Equus simplicidens The Hagerman horse (''Equus simplicidens''), also called the Hagerman zebra or the American zebra, was a North American species of Equidae, equid from the Pliocene, Pliocene epoch and the Pleistocene, Pleistocene epoch. It was one of the oldest hors ...

Equus simplicidens
'', described as zebra-like with a donkey-shaped head. The oldest fossil to date is ~3.5 million years old from Idaho, USA. The genus appears to have spread quickly into the Old World, with the similarly aged ''Equus livenzovensis'' documented from western Europe and Russia. Molecular phylogenies indicate the most recent common ancestor of all modern equids (members of the genus ''Equus'') lived ~5.6 (3.9–7.8) mya. Direct paleogenomic sequencing of a 700,000-year-old middle Pleistocene horse metapodial bone from Canada implies a more recent 4.07 Myr before present date for the most recent common ancestor (MRCA) within the range of 4.0 to 4.5 Myr BP. The oldest divergencies are the Asian hemiones (subgenus ''E. (
Asinus ''Asinus'' is a subgenus of '' Equus'' (single-toed (hooved) grazing animal) that encompasses several subspecies In Taxonomy (biology), biological classification, the term subspecies refers to one of two or more populations of a species l ...
)'', including the kulan,
onager The onager (; ''Equus hemionus''), also known as hemione or Asiatic wild ass, is a species of the family Equidae (horse family) native to Asia. A member of the subgenus ''Asinus'', the onager was Scientific description, described and given its b ...

onager
, and
kiang The kiang (''Equus kiang'') is the largest of the '' Asinus'' subgenus. It is native to the Tibetan Plateau, where it inhabits montane and alpine grasslands. Its current range is restricted to the plains of the Tibetan plateau; Ladakh, India ...

kiang
), followed by the African zebras (subgenera ''E. ( Dolichohippus)'', and ''E. (
Hippotigris Zebras (, ) (subgenus ''Hippotigris'') are African equines ''Equus'' is a genus Genus (plural genera) is a taxonomic rank Taxonomy (general) is the practice and science of classification of things or concepts, including the principles ...
)''). All other modern forms including the domesticated horse (and many fossil
Pliocene The Pliocene ( ; also Pleiocene) epoch (geology), Epoch is the epoch in the geologic timescale that extends from 5.333 million to 2.58Pleistocene The Pleistocene ( , often referred to as the ''Ice Age'') is the geological Epoch (geology), epoch that lasted from about 2,580,000 to 11,700 years ago, spanning the earth’s most recent period of repeated glaciations. Before a change finally ...
forms) belong to the subgenus ''E. ( Equus)'' which diverged ~4.8 (3.2–6.5) million years ago. The ancestors of the modern donkey are the
Nubia Nubia () (Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubian") and literally means "(lan ...

Nubia
n and
Somalia Somalia,, Osmanya script: 𐒈𐒝𐒑𐒛𐒐𐒘𐒕𐒖; ar, الصومال, aṣ-Ṣūmāl officially the Federal Republic of SomaliaThe ''Federal Republic of Somalia'' is the country's name per Article 1 of thProvisional Constitutio ...

Somalia
n subspecies of
African wild ass The African wild ass or African wild donkey (''Equus africanus'') is a wild member of the horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of org ...
. Remains of domestic donkeys dating to the fourth millennium BC have been found in Ma'adi in Lower Egypt, and it is believed that the domestication of the donkey was accomplished long after the domestication of cattle, sheep and goats in the seventh and eighth millennia BC. Donkeys were probably first domesticated by pastoral people in
Nubia Nubia () (Nobiin Nobiin, or Mahas, is a Northern Nubian languages, Nubian language of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Nilo-Saharan language family. "Nobiin" is the genitive case, genitive form of ''Nòòbíí'' ("Nubian") and literally means "(lan ...

Nubia
, and they supplanted the as the chief pack animal of that culture. The domestication of donkeys served to increase the mobility of pastoral cultures, having the advantage over ruminants of not needing time to chew their cud, and were vital in the development of long-distance trade across Egypt. In the
Dynasty IV The Fourth Dynasty of ancient Egypt (notated Dynasty IV) is characterized as a "golden age" of the Old Kingdom of Egypt. Dynasty IV lasted from to 2494 BC. It was a time of peace and prosperity as well as one during which trade with other c ...
era of Egypt, between 2675 and 2565 BC, wealthy members of society were known to own over 1,000 donkeys, employed in agriculture, as dairy and meat animals and as pack animals. In 2003, the tomb of either
King Narmer of the King of the Romans (variant used in the early modern period) File:Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg, Aztec King Nezahualpiltzintli of Texcoco King is the title given to a male monarch in a variety of contexts. The female equivalent is queen re ...

King Narmer
or King Hor-Aha (two of the first Egyptian pharaohs) was excavated and the skeletons of ten donkeys were found buried in a manner usually used with high ranking humans. These burials show the importance of donkeys to the early Egyptian state and its ruler. By the end of the fourth millennium BC, the donkey had spread to Southwest Asia, and the main breeding centre had shifted to
Mesopotamia Mesopotamia ( grc, Μεσοποταμία ''Mesopotamíā''; ar, بِلَاد ٱلرَّافِدَيْن ; syc, ܐܪܡ ܢܗܪ̈ܝܢ, or , ) is a historical region of Western Asia situated within the Tigris–Euphrates river system, in the ...

Mesopotamia
by 1800 BC. The breeding of large, white riding asses made
Damascus )), is an adjective which means "spacious". , motto = , image_flag = Flag of Damascus.svg , image_seal = Emblem of Damascus.svg , seal_type = Seal , m ...

Damascus
famous, while Syrian breeders developed at least three other breeds, including one preferred by women for its easy
gait Gait is the pattern of movement Movement may refer to: Common uses * Movement (clockwork), the internal mechanism of a timepiece * Motion (physics), commonly referred to as movement Arts, entertainment, and media Literature * Movemen ...
. The Muscat or Yemen ass was developed in
Arabia The Arabian Peninsula (; ar, شِبْهُ الْجَزِيرَةِ الْعَرَبِيَّة, , "Arabian Peninsula" or , , "Island of the Arabs") is a peninsula of Western Asia, situated northeast of Africa on the Arabian Plate. At , the ...

Arabia
. By the second millennium BC, the donkey was brought to Europe, possibly at the same time as
viticulture Viticulture (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the area around Rome, known as Latium. Through the power o ...

viticulture
was introduced, as the donkey is associated with the Syrian god of wine,
Dionysus Dionysus (; grc-gre, Διόνυσος) is the god of the grape-harvest, winemaking, fertility, orchards and fruit, vegetation, insanity, ritual madness, religious ecstasy, festivity and theatre in Religion in ancient Greece, ancient Greek rel ...

Dionysus
. Greeks spread both of these to many of their colonies, including those in what are now Italy, France and Spain; Romans dispersed them throughout their empire. The first donkeys came to the Americas on ships of the Second Voyage of
Christopher Columbus Christopher Columbus * lij, Cristoffa C(or)ombo * es, Cristóbal Colón * pt, Cristóvão Colombo * ca, Cristòfor (or ) * la, Christophorus Columbus. (; born between 25 August and 31 October 1451, died 20 May 1506) was an Italian ...

Christopher Columbus
, and were landed at
Hispaniola Hispaniola (, also ; es, La Española; Latin and french: Hispaniola; ht, Ispayola; tnq, Ayiti) is an island in the Caribbean that is part of the Greater Antilles. Hispaniola is the most populous island in the West Indies, and the region's se ...
in 1495. The first to reach North America may have been two animals taken to Mexico by
Juan de Zumárraga ''Juan'' is a given name, the Spanish language, Spanish and Manx language, Manx versions of ''John (given name), John''. It is very common in Spain and in other Spanish-speaking communities around the world and in the Philippines, and also (pronounc ...
, the first bishop of Mexico, who arrived there on 6 December 1528, while the first donkeys to reach what is now the United States may have crossed the
Rio Grande The Rio Grande ( and ), known in Mexico as the Río Bravo del Norte and as the Río Bravo, is one of the principal river A river is a natural flowing watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, sea, lake or another r ...

Rio Grande
with
Juan de Oñate Juan de Oñate y Salazar (; 1550–1626) was a Spanish Spanish may refer to: * Items from or related to Spain: **Spaniards, a nation and ethnic group indigenous to Spain **Spanish language **Spanish cuisine Other places * Spanish, Ontario, Ca ...
in April 1598. From that time on they spread northward, finding use in missions and mines. Donkeys were documented as present in what today is Arizona in 1679. By the
Gold Rush cut the travel time from New York to San Francisco in seven months to four months in the 1849 California Gold Rush, Gold Rush. A gold rush or gold fever is a discovery of gold—sometimes accompanied by other precious metals and rare-earth miner ...

Gold Rush
years of the 19th century, the burro was the
beast of burden A working animal is an animal, usually domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over the reproduction and care of another group to secu ...
of choice of early
prospectors Prospecting is the first stage of the geological analysis (followed by exploration Exploration is the act of searching for the purpose of discovery of information Information can be thought of as the resolution of uncertainty; it ...
in the western United States. With the end of the
placer mining Placer mining is the mining of stream bed (alluvial Alluvium (from the Latin Latin (, or , ) is a classical language belonging to the Italic languages, Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. Latin was originally spoken in the ...
boom, many of them escaped or were abandoned, and a
feral in St. Kilda, Scotland, St Kilda, Scotland A feral animal or plant (from la, fera, 'a wild beast') is one that lives in the wild but is descended from Domestication, domesticated specimens. As with an introduced species, the introduction of ...
population established itself.


Conservation status

About 41 million donkeys were reported worldwide in 2006.
China China (), officially the People's Republic of China (PRC; ), is a country in East Asia East Asia is the eastern region of Asia Asia () is Earth's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the Eastern Hemisphere ...

China
had the most with 11 million, followed by
Pakistan Pakistan, . Pronounced variably in English as , , , and . officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, is a country in South Asia. It is the world's List of countries and dependencies by population, fifth-most populous country, with a popul ...

Pakistan
,
Ethiopia Ethiopia, officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a landlocked country A landlocked country is a country A country is a distinct territory, territorial body or political entity. It is often referred to as the ...

Ethiopia
and
Mexico Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country A country is a distinct territorial body or political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organi ...

Mexico
. As of 2017, however, the Chinese population was reported to have dropped to 3 million, with African populations under pressure as well, due to increasing trade and demand for donkey products in China. Some researchers believe the actual number may be somewhat higher since many donkeys go uncounted. The number of breeds and percentage of world population for each of the FAO's world regions was in 2006: In 1997 the number of donkeys in the world was reported to be continuing to grow, as it had steadily done throughout most of history; factors cited as contributing to this were increasing human population, progress in economic development and social stability in some poorer nations, conversion of forests to farm and range land, rising prices of motor vehicles and fuel, and the popularity of donkeys as pets. Since then, the world population of donkeys is reported to be rapidly shrinking, falling from 43.7 million to 43.5 million between 1995 and 2000, and to only 41 million in 2006. The fall in population is pronounced in developed countries; in Europe, the total number of donkeys fell from 3 million in 1944 to just over 1 million in 1994. The Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (
DAD-IS DAD-IS is the acronym of the worldwide Domestic Animal Diversity Information System of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, within the FAO's management of animal genetic resources programme.Domestic Animal Diversity Infor ...
) of the
FAO The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)french: Organisation des Nations unies pour l'alimentation et l'agriculture; it, Organizzazione delle Nazioni Unite per l'Alimentazione e l'Agricoltura is a specialized agency ...

FAO
listed 189 breeds of ass in June 2011. In 2000 the number of breeds of donkey recorded worldwide was 97, and in 1995 it was 77. The rapid increase is attributed to attention paid to identification and recognition of donkey breeds by the FAO's Animal Genetic Resources project. The rate of recognition of new breeds has been particularly high in some developed countries. In France only one breed, the Baudet du Poitou, was recognised until the early 1990s; by 2005, a further six donkey breeds had official recognition. In prosperous countries, the welfare of donkeys both at home and abroad has become a concern, and a number of sanctuaries for retired and rescued donkeys have been set up. The largest is The Donkey Sanctuary near Sidmouth, England, which also supports donkey welfare projects in Egypt, Ethiopia, India,
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
, and Mexico. In 2017, a drop in the number of Chinese donkeys, combined with the fact that they are slow to reproduce, meant that Chinese suppliers began to look to Africa. As a result of the increase in demand, and the price that could be charged,
Kenya ) , national_anthem = "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu" (, ) is the national anthem of Kenya. History "Ee Mungu Nguvu Yetu"'s lyrics were originally written in Swahili language, Kiswahili, the national language of Kenya ...

Kenya
opened three donkey abattoirs. Concerns for donkeys' well-being, however, have resulted in a number of African countries (including
Uganda Uganda (Ugandan Languages: Yuganda), officially the Republic of Uganda ( sw, Jamhuri ya Uganda), is a landlocked A landlocked country is a country that does not have territory connected to an ocean or whose coastlines lie on endorheic ba ...

Uganda
,
Tanzania Tanzania (; ), officially the United Republic of Tanzania ( sw, Jamhuri ya Muungano wa Tanzania), is a country in East Africa East Africa or Eastern Africa is the eastern subregion of the Africa Africa is the world's second-larges ...

Tanzania
,
Botswana Botswana (, also ), officially the Republic of Botswana ( tn, Lefatshe la Botswana, label=Setswana; Kalanga language, Kalanga: ''Hango yeBotswana''), is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. Botswana is topographically flat, with up to 70 ...

Botswana
,
Niger ) , official_languages = French , languages_type = National language A national language is a language A language is a structured system of communication used by humans, including speech (spoken language), gestures (Signed languag ...

Niger
,
Burkina Faso Burkina Faso (, ; ) is a landlocked country in West Africa that covers an area of around and is bordered by Mali to the northwest, Niger to the northeast, Benin to the southeast, Togo and Ghana to the south, and the Ivory Coast to the southwe ...

Burkina Faso
,
Mali Mali (; ), officially the Republic of Mali (french: République du Mali; bm, ߡߊߟߌ ߞߊ ߝߊߛߏߖߊߡߊߣߊ, Mali ka Fasojamana, ff, 𞤈𞤫𞤲𞥆𞤣𞤢𞥄𞤲𞤣𞤭 𞤃𞤢𞥄𞤤𞤭, Renndaandi Maali, ar, جمهورية م ...

Mali
, and
Senegal Senegal (; french: link=no, Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Senegaal''; Arabic language, Arabic: السنغال ''As-Sinighal''), officially the Republic of Senegal (french: link=no, République du Sénégal; Wolof language, Wolof: ''Réew ...

Senegal
) banning China from buying their donkey products. In 2019, The Donkey Sanctuary warned that the global donkey population could be reduced by half over the next half decade as the demand for
ejiao Donkey-hide gelatin or ass-hide glue ( la, colla corii asini) is gelatin Gelatin or gelatine (from la, gelatus meaning "stiff" or "frozen") is a translucent, colorless, flavorless food ingredient, commonly derived from collagen upright=1.5, ...
increases in China.


Characteristics

Donkeys vary considerably in size, depending on both breed and environmental conditions, and heights at the
withers The withers is the ridge between the shoulder blade The human shoulder is made up of three bones: the clavicle (collarbone), the scapula (shoulder blade), and the humerus (upper arm bone) as well as associated muscles, ligaments and tendons. ...

withers
range from less than to approximately . Working donkeys in the poorest countries have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years; in more prosperous countries, they may have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years. Donkeys are adapted to marginal
desert A desert is a barren area of landscape where little precipitation occurs and, consequently, living conditions are hostile for plant and animal life. The lack of vegetation exposes the unprotected surface of the ground to the processes of ...

desert
lands. Unlike
wild Wild, wild or wild may refer to: Common meanings * Wild animal ''Wild Animal'' is the debut solo studio album by Canadian singer Vanity Vanity is the excessive belief in one's own abilities or attractiveness to others. Prior to the 14th centu ...

wild
and
feral horse A feral horse is a free-roaming horse The horse (''Equus ferus caballus'') is a domesticated Domestication is a sustained multi-generational relationship in which one group of organisms assumes a significant degree of influence over t ...
s, wild donkeys in dry areas are solitary and do not form
harems Harem ( ar, حريم ''ḥarīm'', "a sacred inviolable place; harem; female members of the family")Harem
a ...
. Each adult donkey establishes a home range; breeding over a large area may be dominated by one jack. The loud call or bray of the donkey, which typically lasts for twenty seconds and can be heard for over three kilometres, may help keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert. Donkeys have large ears, which may pick up more distant sounds, and may help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys can defend themselves by biting, striking with the front hooves or kicking with the hind legs. Their vocalization, called a bray, is an "E" followed by an "ah" .


Breeding

A jenny is normally pregnant for about 12 months, though the gestation period varies from 11 to 14 months, and usually gives birth to a single foal. Births of twins are rare, though less so than in horses. About 1.7 percent of donkey pregnancies result in twins; both foals survive in about 14 percent of those. In general jennies have a conception rate that is lower than that of horses (i.e., less than the 60–65% rate for mares). Although jennies come into heat within 9 or 10 days of giving birth, their fertility remains low, and it is likely the reproductive tract has not returned to normal. Thus it is usual to wait one or two further oestrous cycles before rebreeding, unlike the practice with mares. Jennies are usually very protective of their
foal A foal is an equine up to one year old; this term is used mainly for horses. More specific terms are colt (horse), colt for a male foal and filly for a female foal, and are used until the horse is three or four. When the foal is nursing from its ...

foal
s, and some will not come into estrus while they have a foal at side. The time lapse involved in rebreeding, and the length of a jenny's gestation, means that a jenny will have fewer than one foal per year. Because of this and the longer gestation period, donkey breeders do not expect to obtain a foal every year, as horse breeders often do, but may plan for three foals in four years. Donkeys can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, and are commonly interbred with horses. The
hybrid Hybrid may refer to: Economics and finance * Hybrid market, a system allowing stock trades to be completed either electronically or manually * Hybrid security, a type of economic instrument Technology Electrical power generation * Hybrid generato ...
between a jack and a
mare A mare is an adult female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex Sex is either of two divisions, typically male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female g ...

mare
is a
mule A mule is the of a male (jack) and a female (). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of s. Of the two between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a , which is the offspring of a female donkey () a ...

mule
, valued as a working and riding animal in many countries. Some large donkey breeds such as the Asino di Martina Franca, the and the Mammoth Jack are raised only for mule production. The hybrid between a
stallion A stallion is a male that has not been (). Stallions follow the and of their , but within that standard, the presence of s such as may give stallions a thicker, "cresty" neck, as well as a somewhat more muscular physique as compared to fema ...

stallion
and a jenny is a
hinny A hinny is a equine that is the offspring of a male (a ) and a female (a jenny). It is the to the more common , which is the product of a male donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a ). The hinny is distinctive from the mule both in and as ...
, and is less common. Like other inter-species hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile. Donkeys can also breed with
zebra Zebras (, ) (subgenus ''Hippotigris'') are African equines with distinctive black-and-white striped Animal coat, coats. There are three Extant taxon, living species: the Grévy's zebra (''Equus grevyi''), plains zebra (''E. quagga''), and the ...

zebra
s in which the offspring is called a (among other names).


Behaviour

Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of
self-preservation Self-preservation is a behavior or set of behaviors that ensures the survival Survival, or the act of surviving, is the propensity of something to continue existing, particularly when this is done despite conditions that might kill or destroy i ...
than exhibited by horses. Likely based on a stronger prey instinct and a weaker connection with humans, it is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous for whatever reason. Once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable in work. Although formal studies of their
behaviour Behavior (American English American English (AmE, AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US), sometimes called United States English or U.S. English, is the set of varieties of the English language native to the United States. Currently, American English ...
and
cognition Cognition () refers to "the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses". It encompasses many aspects of intellectual function Intellectual functioning refers to the "general men ...
are rather limited, donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn.


Use

File:Skegness4web.jpg, Classic British seaside donkeys in
Skegness Skegness ( ) is a Seaside resort, seaside town and civil parishes in England, civil parish in the East Lindsey, East Lindsey District of Lincolnshire, England. On the Lincolnshire coast of the North Sea, the town is east of Lincoln, England, L ...
File:104 Donkeys in Tayrona Park Colombia.JPG, Pack donkeys in
Tayrona National Natural Park The Tayrona National Natural Park ( es, Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona) is a protected area in the Colombian northern Caribbean Region of Colombia, Caribbean region and within the jurisdiction of the city of Santa Marta, from the city centre. ...
in northern
Colombia Colombia ( , ; ), officially the Republic of Colombia, is a transcontinental country This is a list of countries located on more than one continent A continent is one of several large landmasses. Generally identified by conv ...

Colombia
File:Esel auf Ydra.jpg, Donkeys for transport on the island of Hydra File:Uyghur man on his donkey cart. Kashgar.jpg,
UyghurUyghur may refer to: * Uyghurs, a Turkic ethnic group living in Eastern and Central Asia * Uyghur language, a Turkic language spoken primarily by the Uyghurs ** Uyghur alphabets, any of four systems used to write the language * Uyghur Khaganate, a T ...
man on his donkey cart.
Kashgar Kashgar ( ug, قەشقەر – ''Qeshqer'') or Kashi ( zh, c=喀什) is an oasis In geography Geography (from Greek: , ''geographia'', literally "earth description") is a field of science devoted to the study of the lands, feat ...

Kashgar
The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. Of the more than 40 million donkeys in the world, about 96% are in
underdeveloped Underdevelopment, relating to international development International development or global development is a broad concept denoting the idea that societies and countries have differing levels of "development" on an international scale. It is th ...
countries, where they are used principally as pack animals or for draught work in transport or agriculture. After human labour, the donkey is the cheapest form of agricultural power. They may also be ridden, or used for threshing, raising water, milling and other work. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Some cultures that prohibit women from working with
oxen An ox () (plural oxen, ), also known as a bullock (in BrE British English (BrE) is the standard dialect A standard language (also standard variety, standard dialect, and standard) is a language variety that has undergone substantial ...

oxen
in agriculture do not extend this taboo to donkeys, allowing them to be used by both sexes. In developed countries where their use as beasts of burden has disappeared, donkeys are used to sire mules, to guard
sheep Sheep (''Ovis aries'') are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order (biology), order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name ''sheep'' applies to many species ...

sheep
, for
donkey rides British seaside donkeys in Skegness, Lincolnshire, used for donkey rides on the beach.">Lincolnshire.html" ;"title="Skegness, Lincolnshire">Skegness, Lincolnshire, used for donkey rides on the beach. Donkey rides are a traditional feature of seasi ...
for children or tourists, and as pets. Donkeys may be pastured or stabled with horses and ponies, and are thought to have a calming effect on nervous horses. If a donkey is introduced to a
mare A mare is an adult female Female (symbol: ♀) is the sex Sex is either of two divisions, typically male Male (♂) is the sex of an organism that produces the gamete known as sperm. A male gamete can fuse with a larger female g ...
and
foal A foal is an equine up to one year old; this term is used mainly for horses. More specific terms are colt (horse), colt for a male foal and filly for a female foal, and are used until the horse is three or four. When the foal is nursing from its ...

foal
, the foal may turn to the donkey for support after it has been weaned from its mother. A few donkeys are milked or raised for meat. Approximately 3.5 million donkeys and mules are slaughtered each year for meat worldwide. In Italy, which has the highest consumption of equine meat in Europe and where donkey meat is the main ingredient of several regional dishes, about 1000 donkeys were slaughtered in 2010, yielding approximately 100 tonnes of meat. Asses' milk may command good prices: the average price in Italy in 2009 was €15 per litre, and a price of €6 per 100 ml was reported from Croatia in 2008; it is used for soaps and cosmetics as well as dietary purposes. The niche markets for both milk and meat are expanding. In the past, donkey skin was used in the production of
parchment Parchment is a writing material Writing material refers to the materials that provide the surfaces on which humans use writing instruments A writing implement or writing instrument is an object used to produce writing Writing is a mediu ...

parchment
. In 2017, the UK based charity The Donkey Sanctuary estimated that 1.8 million skins were traded every year, but the demand could be as high as 10 million. In China, donkey meat is considered a delicacy with some restaurants specializing in such dishes, and Guo Li Zhuang restaurants offer the genitals of donkeys in dishes. Donkey-hide gelatin is produced by soaking and stewing the hide to make a traditional Chinese medicine product.
Ejiao Donkey-hide gelatin or ass-hide glue ( la, colla corii asini) is gelatin Gelatin or gelatine (from la, gelatus meaning "stiff" or "frozen") is a translucent, colorless, flavorless food ingredient, commonly derived from collagen upright=1.5, ...
, the gelatine produced by boiling donkey skins, can sell for up to $388 per kilo, at October 2017 prices.


In warfare

During World War I
John Simpson Kirkpatrick John Kirkpatrick (enlisted as John Simpson; 6 July 1892 – 19 May 1915) was a stretcher bearer with the 3rd Australian Field Ambulance brigade during the Gallipoli campaign The Gallipoli campaign, or ). was a military campai ...
, a British stretcher bearer serving with the
Australian and New Zealand Army Corps The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) was a First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a that began on 28 July 1914 and ended on 11 Nov ...
, and Richard Alexander "Dick" Henderson of the
New Zealand Medical Corps New is an adjective referring to something recently made, discovered, or created. New or NEW may refer to: Music * New, singer of K-pop group The Boyz (South Korean band), The Boyz Albums and EPs * New (album), ''New'' (album), by Paul McCartne ...
used donkeys to rescue wounded soldiers from the battlefield at
Gallipoli The Gallipoli peninsula A peninsula ( la, paeninsula from 'almost' and 'island') is a landform A landform is a natural or artificial feature of the solid surface of the Earth or other planetary body A planet is an astronomical bod ...
. According to British food writer
Matthew Fort Matthew Fort (born 29 January 1947) is a United Kingdom, British food writer and critic. Matthew Fort is the son of the Conservative MP Richard Fort (Conservative politician), Richard Fort, who died when he was 12. His brother is the writer Tom ...
, donkeys were used in the
Italian Army "The safeguard of the republic shall be the supreme law" , colors = , colors_labels = , march = ''Parata d'Eroi'' ("Heroes's parade") by Francesco Pellegrino, ''4 Maggio'' (May 4) ...

Italian Army
. The Mountain Fusiliers each had a donkey to carry their gear, and in extreme circumstances the animal could be eaten. Donkeys have also been used to carry explosives in conflicts that include the
war in Afghanistan War in Afghanistan, Afghan war, or Afghan civil war may refer to: * Conquest of Afghanistan by Alexander the Great (330 BC – 327 BC) *Muslim conquests of Afghanistan The Muslim conquests of Afghanistan Afghanistan (; Pashto/Dari languag ...
and others.


Care


Shoeing

Donkey hooves are more elastic than those of horses, and do not naturally wear down as fast. Regular clipping may be required; neglect can lead to permanent damage. Working donkeys may need to be shod. Donkey shoes are similar to
horseshoe A horseshoe is a fabricated product, normally made of metal A metal (from Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country lo ...

horseshoe
s, but usually smaller and without toe-clips.


Nutrition

In their native arid and semi-arid climates, donkeys spend more than half of each day foraging and feeding, often on poor quality scrub. The donkey has a tough
digestive system The human digestive system consists of the human gastrointestinal tract, gastrointestinal tract plus the accessory organs of digestion (the tongue, salivary glands, pancreas, liver, and gallbladder). Digestion involves the breakdown of food in ...

digestive system
in which roughage is efficiently broken down by hind gut fermentation, microbial action in the caecum and large intestine. While there is no marked structural difference between the gastro-intestinal tract of a donkey and that of a horse, the digestion of the donkey is more efficient. It needs less food than a horse or pony of comparable height and weight, approximately 1.5 percent of body weight per day in dry matter, compared to the 2–2.5 percent consumption rate possible for a horse.Hall, Marvin H. and Patricia M. Comerford. "Pasture and Hay for Horses – Argonomy facts 32," 1992 University of Pennsylvania, Cooperative Extension Service.
Web site accessed February 14, 2007.
Donkeys are also less prone to colic. The reasons for this difference are not fully understood; the donkey may have different intestinal flora to the horse, or a longer gut retention time. Donkeys obtain most of their energy from Dietary fiber, structural carbohydrates. Some suggest that a donkey needs to be fed only straw (preferably barley straw), supplemented with controlled grazing in the summer or hay in the winter, to get all the energy, protein, fat and vitamins it requires; others recommend some grain to be fed, particularly to working animals, and others advise against feeding straw. They do best when allowed to consume small amounts of food over long periods. They can meet their nutritional needs on 6 to 7 hours of grazing per day on average dryland pasture that is not stressed by drought. If they are worked long hours or do not have access to pasture, they require hay or a similar dried forage, with no more than a 1:4 ratio of legumes to grass. They also require salt and mineral supplements, and access to clean, fresh water. In temperate climates the forage available is often too abundant and too rich; over-feeding may cause weight gain and obesity, and lead to metabolic disorders such as founder (laminitis"Feeding Your Donkey"
Web site accessed July 4, 2009.
) and hyperlipaemia, or to gastric ulcers. Throughout the world, working donkeys are associated with the very poor, with those living at or below subsistence level. Few receive adequate food, and in general donkeys throughout the Third World are under-nourished and over-worked.


Feral populations

In some areas domestic donkeys have returned to the wild and established feral populations such as those of the burro of North America and the Asinara donkey of Sardinia, Italy, both of which have protected status. Feral donkeys can also cause problems, notably in environments that have evolved free of any form of equid, such as Hawaii. In Australia, where there may be 5 million Feral donkeys in Australia, feral donkeys, they are regarded as an invasive pest and have a serious impact on the environment. They may compete with livestock and native animals for resources, spread weeds and diseases, foul or damage watering holes and cause erosion.


Donkey hybrids

A male donkey (jack) can be crossed with a female horse to produce a
mule A mule is the of a male (jack) and a female (). Horses and donkeys are different species, with different numbers of s. Of the two between these two species, a mule is easier to obtain than a , which is the offspring of a female donkey () a ...

mule
. A male horse can be crossed with a female donkey (jenny) to produce a
hinny A hinny is a equine that is the offspring of a male (a ) and a female (a jenny). It is the to the more common , which is the product of a male donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a ). The hinny is distinctive from the mule both in and as ...
. Horse-donkey Hybrid (biology), hybrids are almost always infertility, sterile because horses have 64 chromosomes whereas donkeys have 62, producing offspring with 63 chromosomes. Mules are much more common than hinnies. This is believed to be caused by two factors, the first being proven in cat hybrids, that when the chromosome count of the male is the higher, fertility rates drop. The lower progesterone production of the jenny may also lead to early embryonic loss. In addition, there are reasons not directly related to reproductive biology. Due to different mating behavior, jacks are often more willing to cover mares than stallions are to breed jennies. Further, mares are usually larger than jennies and thus have more room for the ensuing foal to grow in the womb, resulting in a larger animal at birth. It is commonly believed that mules are more easily handled and also physically stronger than hinnies, making them more desirable for breeders to produce. The offspring of a
zebra Zebras (, ) (subgenus ''Hippotigris'') are African equines with distinctive black-and-white striped Animal coat, coats. There are three Extant taxon, living species: the Grévy's zebra (''Equus grevyi''), plains zebra (''E. quagga''), and the ...

zebra
-donkey cross is called a zonkey, zebroid, zebrass, or zedonk; ''zebra mule'' is an older term, but still used in some regions today. The foregoing terms generally refer to hybrids produced by breeding a male zebra to a female donkey. ''Zebra hinny, zebret'' and ''zebrinny'' all refer to the cross of a female zebra with a male donkey. Zebrinnies are rarer than zedonkies because female zebras in captivity are most valuable when used to produce full-blooded zebras. There are not enough female zebras breeding in captivity to spare them for hybridizing; there is no such limitation on the number of female donkeys breeding.


See also

* Animal-borne bomb attacks * Cultural references to donkeys * Jennet, a type of medieval horse


References


External links

{{Authority control Donkeys, Feral animals Mammals as pets Mammals described in 1758 Taxa named by Carl Linnaeus Equus (genus) Pack animals Subspecies