More About Donkeys

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These wise, loving, hard working animals live throughout the world. They are the descendants of the wild African ass and were first domesticated over 5,000 years ago. In the tomb of one of the first Egyptian pharaohs, the skeletons of 10 donkeys were found, buried in the manner of high ranking humans.

The donkey is the symbol of the Egyptian sun god, Ra. Donkeys or asses are mentioned in many times in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. According to Old Testament prophecy, the Messiah is said to arrive on a donkey: “Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation. Lowly and riding on a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9) Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. Donkeys are also referred to repeatedly in the writings of the Hindu and Islamic religions.

Today, there are 40 million donkeys and they live throughout the world. In most places in the world, they are the valued beast of burden for those living at or below subsistence levels.

The scientific name for the donkey is equus asinus. Most often, donkeys are referred to as asses. The term “donkey” emerged in the late 1700’s. It is unknown where this term came from. The Spanish term for donkey is “burro.” This term is also applied to the wild donkeys that live in the Southwest. These donkeys were originally used for mining and then were released.

A male donkey is called a “jack.” When gelded, he is called a “john.” A female donkey is called a “jenny” or “jennet.” Donkeys can breed with other equines. A jack bred with a mare (female horse) is a “mule.” A jenny bred with a stallion (male horse) is a “hinny.” A zebra and donkey bred together produce a “zonkey.”

Donkeys come in three basic sizes. Miniature donkeys are native to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. A miniature donkey must not be more than 36 inches tall when measured at the withers (shoulder). Miniature donkeys are most often kept as pets. Standard donkeys measure 36 to 54 inches (jennet) or 56 inches (jack). Standard donkeys are the ones that are most often used as beasts of burden throughout the world. The wild burros in the Southwest are also standards. Mammoth donkeys are over 54 or 56 inches. Mammoth donkeys are most often used to breed mules.