Breeds & Size
In the U.S., donkeys are classified by size. They are measured at the withers (shoulder):
Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys 36 or less
Small Standard 36 40
Standard 40 48
Large Standard 48 54 for Jennets
48 56 for Jacks
54 and up for Jennets
56 and up for Jacks
Donkeys are gentle, intelligent animals who posses a keen sense of humor. They are herd animals and are happiest with others of their own kind. They can become friends with horses or other farm animals, but should never be kept alone, as they will become very lonely and anxious.
Donkeys and mules are often said to be stubborn. This is not true. Donkeys and mules are very smart and cautious and like to be safe. They will often freeze and refuse to move when they sense danger. This is in contrast to the horse, whose first reflex is to flee from danger. Instead of bolting or running away, a donkey or mule will often stop and think about what is scaring them, trying to figure out the safest way to handle the situation.
The average lifespan of the donkey and mules in developed countries is 27 years, and some live into their forties or even more. Sadly, the average lifespan of donkeys and mules in developing countries is 1/3 what it is here. Meager food, scarce or absent veterinary care, and heavy work loads contribute to the shortened lifespan. Many families in developing countries depend on the donkey or mule's work for their livelihood.
Glossary of Longear Terms:
Equus asinus the Latin name for donkey
Burro the Spanish word for donkey
Jack a male donkey
Jennet or Jenny a female donkey
Mules -- the offspring of a female horse and male donkey
Molly mule a female mule
John mule a male mule
Hinny the offspring of a female donkey and a male horse
Zedonks - the offspring of a donkey and a zebra.
Mules, Hinnys, and Zedonks are hybrids and are almost always sterile, which means they cannot reproduce.
Donkaholic Any human afflicted
How much grain should I feed my donkey, and what kind?
Most donkeys do not need grain. Pasture and/or grass hay, mineralized salt formulated for equines, and fresh water are a good diet for most. Pregnant or lactating jennets, donkeys in heavy work, or elderly donkeys with poor teeth may need supplemental feed. Please ask your vet.
Do donkeys need shoes?
Most donkeys do not need shoes. Mammoth donkeys who are ridden extensively may require shoes if their hooves wear faster than they grow out. All donkeys should have their feet trimmed on a regular basis by a knowledgeable farrier.
What vaccinations should my donkey have?
In New England, most veterinarians recommend vaccinating against tetanus, rabies, eastern and western equine encephalitis and West Nile virus. Due to your local conditions, your vet may recommend additional vaccinations.
What about their teeth?
Just as with horses, donkeys' teeth continue to grow throughout their lives and the constant chewing of roughage causes them to wear. Because equines chew from side to side in the same direction, sharp points can develop on the sides of their teeth. These points can interfere with the eating and proper chewing of food, which can in turn lead to weight loss or other digestive problems. Donkeys should be seen by an equine dentist once a year (twice a year is recommended for the very young and very old). If sharp areas are present, the dentist will float or file them off. This is not painful to the donkey and is usually tolerated very well.
Must I treat my donkey for worms?
Yes. A regular deworming program is necessary to reduce internal parasites and keep your donkey in the best of health. Please ask your veterinarian (or one of the folks listed on this brochure) for advice on a deworming program that is appropriate for your area. CAUTION: Special care must be given to donkeys who have not been on a regular deworming program and who may be carrying a heavy parasite load.
Below are books that we recommend if you are interested in learning more about donkeys and mules. You can also check out our Links page, where you will find many interesting websites dedicated to donkeys and mules.
The Donkey Companion by Sue Weaver (Available for purchase on our website)
Livestock Guardians Using Dogs, Donkeys, and Llamas to Protect Your Herd by Janet Vorwald Dohner (Available for purchase on our website)
Equine Angels by Frank Weller
The Definitive Donkey, a textbook on the Modern Ass by Betsy and Paul Hutchins
How to Care for Your Miniature Donkey by Bonnie Gross (info on care & handling applies to all sizes of donkeys)
Donkey Driving by Ellis and Claxton
Donkey Business III: a guide for raising, training and showing donkeys by Christine Berry and Jo Anne Kokas.
The Professional Handbook of the Donkey published by The Donkey Sanctuary An excellent health care resource. http://www.thedonkeysanctuary.org.uk
Those Magnificent Mules: A Complete Approach to Athletic Conditioning by Meredith Hodges