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The donkey has a reputation for stubborness and stupidity, yet is has served man tirelessly for thousands of years. It is the domesticated descendant of the African wild ass. The donkey is known by a varity of names such as ass, moke, and burro. The donkey has various breeds like its relative the horse. But it does not have as many different breeds and variations.
Habitat: Domesticated donkeys live in a wide variety of habitats aound the world. The donkeys ancestor, the African wild ass, and its close relative, the Asiatic wild ass, live in desert plains sparsely covered with low shrubs. The ass has always lived where scarce water and vegetation could not supprt other animals. Both species of wild ass are now rare. Some wild herds in Africa may be descendants of domesticated animals that escaped back to the wild. At one time, the African wild ass, could be found across North Africa from the banks of the Nile to the Red Sea, and parts of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea.
Food & Feeding: Like all equids, the donkey exists only on grass. Unlike ruminants (cattle, sheep, and goats) that chew cud to extract nutrients from the grass, the donkey lacks a multichambered stomach needed for chewing cud. Insead it eats large amounts of grass, feeding up to 20 hours a day. The donkey needs little water and only drinks every two to three days.
Breeding: A jenny or jennet (domesticated female) mates through out the year. But a wild female donkey usually mates in spring and gives birth the following spring. The wild donkey's courtship behavior is different from that of other equids (asses, horses, and zebra). Although it lives like a horses do, in groups with one stallion and several mares and their young, the group is varieable and unstabled.
The jack (male) acts aggressively toward the female during mating by biting, kicking, and shasing her until she submits. Adult donkeys do not mate for life. The single foal is born after one year; twins are rare. The donkey's gestation period (the time in which the young develops inside its mother's womb) is one month longer that that of a horse. Actie and able to walk and run a short time after birth, the foal feeds on the jenny's extremely rich milk. It contains more sugar and protein but less fat than cows milk.
Characteristics: While smaller and sturied than the horse, the donkey's head and ears are large in proportion to its doby. The donkey has a gray coat that varies in color according to its breed. The dark color of the short mane extends down the donkey's spine to the tail, with a dark stripe running across the shoulders. The ears have dark tips, and sometimes dark bands encircle the lower legs. Like other equids, the donkey's toes disappeared and evolved into one hoof encased in protective horn. If a group of wild asses is attacked, they form a protective circle and kick out at their attackers with their hooves.
Donkey & Man: The donkey, or ass, was domesticated 12,000
years ago. The Egyptians used it to build pyramids in 3000 B.C. while the
Romans used it as a asacrificial animal. In 2000 B.C. it reached Europe
and it is an important figure in the Bible
People have needed the donkey for its surefootedness, strength, endurance, and ability to live and work under hot and difficult conditions. It has been used for riding, as a beast of burden, to pull loads and carts, and to work mills, threashers, and well.
The wild donkey is now rare in its native range because nomadic tribes have over hunted it and captured it for use as a work animal. It has been weakened by diseases from domestic live stock and by interbreeding with domensticat donkeys. Industrial and agricultural progress have not threatened the donkey in its remote and harsh habitat, but protective measures are hard to enforce in the area.
Key facts, Sizes
Height to shoulder: 3 to 4 1/2 ft
Sexual maturity: 2 to 2 1/2 years
Breeding season: Year yound but genterally in spring.
Gestation: 12 months
No. of Young: Usually 1; occasionally twins
Weainng time: About 9 months
Habit: In the wild, may live in unstable social groups.
Diet: Mainly grass and foliage from shrubs
Lifespan: More than 25 years
Related Species: There are 7 species in the genus Equus, 2 horses,
2 asses, and 3 zebras.
Distribution: The domesticated donkey is found worldwide. Its ancestor the Africa wild ass, is found only in a few remote parts of northeast Africa.
Conservation: he domestication of the donkey has ensured its uture. All wild asses are listed as rare or endangered.
The Donkey's Temperament: The donkey is extremely patient but
has a reputation as a bad tempered, stubborn animal. Its body postures
indicate its moods.
Greeting: Pricks ears upward and draws upper lip back.
Threat posture: Presses ears back along neck, opens mouth, and bares teeth.
Extreme aggression: Swings hindquarters around and kicks legs out at enemy.
Did you know?
The donkey can go without water longer than any other equid.
The word "ass" comes from the Hebrew word athon. The name "donkey" is attributed to the animals dun, or dull gray brown, color.
If a female donkey mates with a male horse, the offspring is a "hinny." When a male donkey and a female horse breed, they produce a mule. Hinnies and mules cannot breed with each other.
The donkey makes its "eeaw" sound by breathing in and instantly exhaling.
Donkey's milk was once used to treat tuberculosis. In parts of England, some believed that riding a donkey could cure a child's whooping cough.