Everything you want to know about donkeys!


The domestication of the donkey is anterior or posterior to that of the horse. Some authors, partisans of anteriority, speak even of its use by the man at the time of the polished stone. To date, no reliable scientific discovery can refute or confirm these theses. It would be more accurate to say that the donkey was not initially used in the same geographical area as the horse.

More securely, the Nubian donkey was domesticated in Lower Egypt more than 4000 years before Christ, and the donkey from North Africa a little later. The donkeys of Europe come from these two subspecies. Donkeys were introduced by the Etruscan who emigrated from Asia Minor to Italy. The Greeks and Romans acclimated them to the countries of Southern Europe. In the sixteenth century, the Spanish during the great conquests implanted them in South America.


  • Animal
  • Family: Equidae
  • Branch: Vertebrates
  • Class: Mammals
  • Order: Herbivores
  • Suborder: Perissodactyls
  • Genre: Equus
  • Species: Asinus

Crosses: Donkey and Mare = Mule  Horse and donkey = Hinny

Horses have 64 chromosomes, donkeys 62.

Size: There are 4 categories:

  • big subjects: 4.26 foot / 130 cm minimum.
  • average subjects: 3.60 to 4.10 foot / from 110cm to 125cm
  • small subjects: 2.95 to 3.44 foot / from 90 cm to 105cm
  • miniatures. Less than 2.95 foot / less than 90 cm
  • Donkey measures in length from: 2.95 to 5.24 foot / 90 cm to 160cm.

Weight: It varies according to the category of the donkey, ranging from 70 kg / 154.32 pounds for the miniatures to more than 450 kg / 992.08 pounds.

Longevity: The longevity of a donkey is 30 to 35 years on average. Exceptionally, more than 50 years.

Pregnancy: The duration of gestation of a donkey is between 12 and 13 months.

Braying: “The braying” is using the nostrils. Indeed, the donkey does not have vocal cords and there are as many different brays as donkeys, that is to say, the concert when several donkeys are in the same field! The donkey has no voice, no cry of pain.

Food: Donkeys are natural browsers and will graze up to 16 hours a day on a diet of high fiber plant material. They are very efficient at metabolizing their food and therefore their energy requirements are lower than a similar sized pony. This makes them easy to overfeed, which can lead to serious health problems such as hyperlipaemia, laminitis and other organ dysfunction. Ideally, donkeys should be fed 1.5% of their body weight in dry matter for maintenance.

Water: When it comes to domestic animals, camels have the lowest requirements for water consumption, but donkeys are second. At rest, donkeys only need 4-9% of their bodyweight in water each day (depending upon temperature). For a standard donkey weighing 500lbs that’s about 2.5 – 5.5 gallons of water a day. During high temperatures, especially Summer, expect donkeys to consume the higher end of their water requirements and sometimes more. Fun bonus fact: donkeys have rapid rehydration rates; they can rehydrate by drinking between 6 and 8 gallons of water in 2 – 5 minutes.


Head It is elongated and forms a nearly 90 ° angle with the neckline. The eyes are protected by prominent arches and are almond-shaped.

Ears They characterize the donkey: long, pointed, hairy. They measure about half the length of the head. They allow donkeys to hear sounds from far away.  Ears also allow hearing the possible dangers. We can recognize if the donkey is happy, angry, attentive, fearful depending on how the ears position. By the surface of their flag, they also provide thermal regulation that prevents the donkey from sweating, hence a saving of water (it is crucial in a desert).

Vision Eyes are on the side. Donkey has a monocular lateral vision, poorly perceives the depth of field but quickly identifies what moves. He has a binocular vision in front of him. He cannot see what is happening right behind him or on his back, but he knows it because he hears, and turns his head. 

Nostrils They are tightened and protected so that they can breathe in extreme conditions of cold or heat. To touch, the hairs of the tip of the nose are real antennas. Hair and skin are sensitive.

Smell His sense of smell is very good. The flehmen (nose tip pinched and rolled up) refines his sense of smell.

Neckline It is positioned in line with the line of the back. Often a little hail in the female and a little stronger in the male.

Mane Not abundant, short, rather straight, unlike the horse in which it falls.

Whiter Always very low, it connects the back to the neck. It is here that we measure the height of the animal, just as in the horse.

Back He must be right. A concave back means that the donkey is old or has worked a lot. The back is often marked by a line of mullet that is in line with the mane. This line can form a cross at the withers.

Rump Having five vertebrae decreases flexibility but, on the other hand, increases strength. Horses have 6 vertebrae.

Tail It looks more like a brush. Short and fine. Its role is to hunt flies, but also to promote the balance of the animal.

Chest It is a little narrow, indicating that its breathing capacity is lower than that of the horse.

Belly If the animal is not overweight, it should be small.  Longer intestines to treat dry, woody and nutrient-poor foods. A fast metabolism, able to take the least protein source from an insignificant twig.

Legs Slender compared to the horse. They have a chestnut in the forelegs (outgrowth placed above the knee inside the limb). The chestnut is the fingerprint in the donkey just like the horse.

Feet A humid hoof horn to protect his feet from burning ground. The donkey has a more upright foot shape, claw-shaped, smaller, more retracted sole to regulate thermal and stability on stony paths.

Donkeys dislike of wet cold, rain, and wind. Their coat is not waterproof contrary to horse.

The Paces

Walk: the donkeys walk at a pace more often. The “normal” step is a diagonal one, but many walk the amble: right side, then left side (like giraffes or elephants).

Trot: during games or getaways, or with the team: diagonal right, then diagonal left, etc.

Gallop: the donkey gallops very rarely at four beats, most often at three beats: right anterior, diagonal left, right posterior, or the opposite. When the donkey gallops to escape the danger, he keeps his head to one side to look behind him.