A donkey is also called a burro. It is a member of the Equidae or horse family. Donkeys and horses had a common ancestor millions of years ago.
There are two species of wild donkeys: Asiatic and African. There are 8 different types of domesticated donkey.
Donkeys were first domesticated over 6,000 years ago in north Africa and Egypt.
Where Do They Live?
Domesticated donkeys can be found throughout the world. They are used as beasts of burden, as well as sources of food. The domesticated donkeys prefer dry, warm areas.
Wild donkeys can today be found in the deserts and savannas of north Africa, as well as the Arabian Peninsula and the Middle East.
What Do They Look Like?
Donkeys can look very similar to their horse cousins. They have long, flappy ears and are often stockier than horses.
Donkeys can come in many shapes, sizes, and colors, depending on the breed. The average donkey stands 40 inches at the shoulder.
The smallest donkey is the miniature donkey. The largest is the mammoth donkey.
Wild Donkeys usually weigh around 550 pounds.
The most common coat for a donkey is grey, with a dark stripe from mane to tail. The mane is short, and its tail looks more like a cow’s tail than a horse’s tail.
What Do They Eat?
Donkeys mostly eat grass. They will also eat shrubs and plants found in the desert.
Donkeys don’t eat the grass straight from the ground. Instead they use their lips to pull it from the ground, and then chew it with their teeth.
Data suggests that donkeys can eat up to 6,000 pounds of food a year. This is so much that it is believed that some feral donkeys are threatening the habitat of local animals.
How Do They Behave?
The story with donkeys is that they are supposed to be stubborn. This is typically not the case. When donkeys become frightened they freeze and examine the situation. For the most part donkeys are quite obedient.
Donkeys are social animals and usually live in herds in the wild. The herd is lead by one male and consists of several females.
Herds are often fluid. The members of a herd seem to change regularly.
Donkeys are mostly active during the morning and at night. During the hottest part of the day they usually can be seen resting.
Donkeys are capable of breeding at the age of 2. They are pregnant for 12 months and give birth to one baby a year. A baby donkey is called a foal.
Foals weigh between 19 and 30 pounds and are capable of walking within 30 minutes of being born.
Donkeys are known to mate with other members of the Equidae family. When a donkey and horse mate the offspring is called a mule or hinny. When a donkey and zebra mate the offspring is called a zebroid, zonkey, or zedonk. These hybrid offspring are unable to reproduce.
- Donkeys are mostly called burros in the southwest US
- Male donkeys are called Jacks
- Female donkeys are called Jennies
- Many countries that participated in World War I used donkeys as replacements for horses
- Donkeys are very sure footed and well equipped for traveling over rough terrain