Donkey belongs to the family of horses, zebras and mules. Scientifically known as Equus africanus asinus, they are also called asses by the common folk. The donkey animal originated in the African deserts and was gradually brought to the rest of the world by humans. It serves a number of purposes when it is domesticated.

It is a calm and intelligent organism that learns easily. It is therefore, easy to train as a domesticated animal. Though it can be tamed to serve as a means of transportation for humans and their luggage, the animal is considered as very stubborn creature which is wrong. In the wild, its two main predators are wolves and coyotes. However in captivity, it can happily live for as long as forty years if it receives proper care.

Physical characteristics

  • A donkey domestic animal is the smallest member in the entire horse family, called Equidae. There are three types of the animals based on the size. The medium sized individuals measure around 36 - 48 inches in height while some large ones can grow up to 56 inches. Yet the largest one of them, known as mammoth jackstock, grows to a size of 63 inches.
  • Most of these animals have a diminutive dun color while brown, black and sorrel also exist as you can see in the donkey pictures. Some of them even possess spots on their bodies.
  • Their eyes have white muzzles around them along with light rings. The belly and the under-leg are also white.
  • Being coarser, their tails differ from those of horses, but show resemblance with that of cows. A tassel of hair is present at the end of it.
  • Their ears account for the main distinguishing physical feature. They are long and large, helping the animal in a couple of ways. They enable it to have a strong sense of hearing so that it can detect the presence of a prey even when the latter is miles away. Moreover, these long ears also help in keeping the animal cool during hot weather.

History of Domestication

This useful animal has been serving humans for around five thousand years. In ancient Egypt, they were trusted with the responsibility of transporting valuable gems. Similarly, in Rome, they served as pack animals or the beasts of burden, and were used to carry agricultural goods. They were the Romans who brought them to England. The Spanish, on the other hand, took the credit of introducing them to the New World in the seventeenth century. Since then, they are being used all over the world for carrying load as well as for protecting farm animals.

The sharp hearing sense of the animal makes it a perfect guard for sheep as it can warn them when a predator is lurking around miles away. Donkeys accompany the sheep and protect them against potential predators, including wolf, coyote, fox and wild dog. As a guard, they are given preference over the pet dogs because their diet is same as that of sheep. Therefore, the owner does not have to feed them separately as in the case of dogs. Their self-preservation is often mistaken as stubbornness. However, the animal goes against its master's will only if it senses danger. It is, therefore, very useful in warning against a potential peril lurking around.

Interesting Information about Donkey

You must have come across interesting donkey facts and pictures on the internet. Here is some more information to add to your knowledge about these creatures.

  • Being desert animals, they can survive without having any food or water for a long time.
  • Today, the number of asses is around forty million.
  • They are found in different parts of the world, particularly in underdeveloped countries where they serve the important purpose of carrying load.
  • The first of these animals was domesticated as early as 4000 BC in the ancient Egypt.
  • Assess are not only good guards for a herd of sheep, but they can also be great baby sitters. They have been observed to love children and care for them instead of harming them in any way. Moreover, these animals can develop a sense of responsibility when entrusted with an important task.
  • The breeding of mammoth jacks was first carried out in the United States of America by George Washington.
  • In the wild, asses live in the form of small herds. Their bray is loud enough to help them communicate with their fellows over long distances.
  • Although these organisms can survive for twenty-five to thirty five years on average, they hardly live for ten years in the third world countries owing to poor care.
  • A male donkey crossed with a female horse gives rise to a mule. On the other hand, crossing a male horse with a female donkey produces a creature called hinny.
  • Although its young ones are collectively called foals, a male baby is called the colt while a female baby is known as filly.
  • Apart from being known as asses, they are also called burros and jackstocks.
  • The smallest of these animals are called miniature. They measure 36 inches in height. These miniature asses are mostly found on the Mediterranean islands.
  • The French Poitou is a rare kind of ass which possesses a very large head and ears. Its black coat is very thick and shaggy. It is one of the largest asses with a height of around fifty-six to sixty inches.
  • The first owner of the donkeys born in the United States of America was George Washington.
  • Asses express a strong dislike towards any type of dog as the coyote (American Jackal resembling dog) is their biggest predator. Therefore, owners cannot keep both a donkey and dog together for the protection of a herd of sheep.

An ass serves humans better than any other domesticated animal does. It has been wrongly depicted as a clumsy and unintelligent creature in children's stories and animated movies. It is actually one of the most intelligent organisms with a strong sense of cautiousness to protect its owner against danger.

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