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Donkeys (Equus asinus), also known as burros and asses, are seen all over the world. Members of the Equidae family, donkeys are cousins of horses and zebras, but they tend to have longer and floppy ears, and look stockier than other hoofed animals.
See the fact file below for more information on the donkeys or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Donkey worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- A jack is a term given to a male donkey. A female, however, is called a jennet or jenny, and their offspring a colt.
- In the western region of the United States, a donkey is sometimes referred to as a burro.
- Mules are the result of crossing a male donkey and a female horse. A hinny, on the other hand, is produced after crossing a male horse and a female donkey.
THE AFRICAN WILD ASS AND RELATED SPECIES
- African wild asses live in North Africa and possibly the Arabian Peninsula. These species are highly-adaptable to life in a desert or semi-desert habitat.
- They stand around 125 to 145 cm (4.2 to 5.5 ft) tall and weigh about 275 kg (605 lbs). Donkeys have resilient digestive systems, which can break down desert vegetation and draw out moisture from food efficiently.
- They can also survive without water for a very long time.
- An African wild ass’ large ears give them an outstanding sense of hearing and help in cooling.
- Since there is an inadequate amount of vegetation in their environment, wild asses live apart from each other, except for mothers and their young, unlike the closely bonded herds of wild horses.
- They produce very loud voices, which can be heard for over 3 km. This trait helps them stay in contact with other asses throughout the wide spaces of the desert.
- Wild asses can run almost as fast as horses. But, unlike their cousins, their tendency is to not escape from a possibly dangerous situation, but to investigate and judge first before deciding what to do. When they have to, they can defend themselves with kicks from both their front and hind quarters.
- Modern African wild asses are only found in small regions in northeast Africa and are now considered an endangered species, due to war and political instability in its geographic range, as well as being hunted prey.
- Before, there were at least four subspecies of African wild ass. Today, there is only one extant species, the Somali wild ass (E. asinus somalicus). It is assumed that the donkey originated from the Nubian wild ass (E. asinus africanus), which reached extinction in the twentieth century.
- Cousins of the African wild ass are the other members of the horse family, all of which are now endangered in the wild. These include the horse (Equus caballus), the onager (E. hemionus), the kiang (E. kiang), Grevy’s zebra (E. greyi), Burcell’s zebra (E. burchelli), and the mountain zebra (E. zebra). All of these species can interbreed with each other, although their young are sterile, except in some intensely rare separate cases.
- Another horse family species, the quagga (E. quagga), which is currently categorized as a subspecies of the plains zebra, became extinct in 1883.
- There are other large groups of feral donkeys and horses that are domesticated and have gone back to the wild on most continents. However, the only true extant wild horse is Przewalki’s wild horse of central Asia. In the past, it was named E. przewalskii, but now most researchers acknowledge it to be the same species as the domestic horse, E. caballus. It is now getting back from near extinction and being reintroduced to its natural habitat.
- Wild asses were preyed on by humans for their meat and skins. It is thought that hunters sometimes hunted orphaned colts and kept them as pets. Asses did an excellent job in adjusting to conditions in human settlements and were able to produce more species in captivity, which led to the rise of the domesticated donkey. The first evidence of the donkey was found in Egypt, dating back around 4000 B.C.E.
- Donkeys turned out to be important pack animals for people in the Egyptian and Nubian areas. They were also used to pull plows and were hunted for their meat and milk.
- By 18000 B.C.E., donkeys had arrived in the Middle East, where the trading city of Damascus was known to be the “City of Asses,” written in cuneiform texts. Syria developed at least three breeds of donkeys, including a saddle breed with a charming, easy gait, which was adored by women.
- Years after the domesticated horse was introduced to the Middle East, around 1500 B.C.E., donkeys and horses started to be bred together, producing mules. As a working animal, the mule, in some way, is preferable to both the donkey and the horse.
- Donkeys, together with horses and mules, continuously spread around the world. In 43 C.E., the Romans imported the first donkeys to Britain.
- In 1495, these animals were brought to the New World by Columbus.
- Varying breeds of donkeys were developed, including the Poitou of France and the Mammoth Jack Stock of the United States, both of which were bred to male mules. They are larger than the usual donkeys, around 130 to 150 cm tall at the shoulders. In the 20th century, miniature donkeys, 90 cm tall or shorter, were also produced and became popular as pets.
- The average donkey is somewhat smaller than the African wild ass, standing 90 to 120 cm tall at the shoulder. Their coats range from the most common dun (grayish brown), from which the word “donkey” is derived, to reddish, white, black, and spotted.
- Donkeys turned out to be much slower with domestication and very rarely break into a gallop. They can survive on poor food and water and can even bear the great heat.
- Cold and rain, however, puts them in a bad situation and donkeys in cooler, wetter climates require shelter.
- They are sure-footed and can lift heavy loads, as much as 30% of their own weight.
- Donkeys have leverage over an oxen as working animals since they do not have to stop and ruminate like cattle. Instead, they use hindgut fermentation to digest their food.
- It can be a challenge to force or frighten a donkey into making it do something it sees as contrary to its own best interest, unlike horses which are more willing to, such as going along a path with unsafe footing.
- Despite the limited formal studies and research of their behavior and cognition, scientists suggest donkeys are a smart, cautious, friendly, mischievous, and curious species. They have a reputation for stubbornness, but much of this is because of some handlers’ misinterpretation of their highly-developed sense of self-preservation.
- Once a person has gained their confidence, donkeys can be willing companions and are very reliable in work and recreation.
DONKEYS IN CULTURE AND RELIGION
- In ancient Greece, donkeys were linked to Dionysus, the god of wine.
- In ancient Rome, they were used as sacrificial animals.
- In the bible, they are mentioned a hundred times, most popular in the stories of Samson and Balaam in the Old Testament, and in the story of Jesus in the New Testament.
- Based on the bible, Jesus went to Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy. Mary, his mother, is often illustrated as riding a donkey; these animals are also traditional parts of nativity scenes during Christmas.
- Currently, there are about 44 million donkeys. China holds the most number of donkeys, around 11 million, followed by Ethiopia and Mexico. Studies suggest that their real population is higher since many donkeys go uncounted.
- The majority of the donkeys are used for the same types of work that they have been performing for over 6000 years. Their most common job is for transport, whether riding, pack transport, or pulling carts.
- Donkeys are also utilized in farm tillage, threshing, raising water, and milling. Other donkeys are often bred to be mules, some are companions for horses, guards for sheep, and are kept as pets. The rest are raised for milk and meat.
- Their population continues to increase, mainly because of human population, progress in economic development and social stability in some third world countries, conversion of forests to farm and range land, growing prices of motor vehicles and gasoline, and their popularity as pets.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the donkeys across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Donkey worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the donkeys (Equus asinus), also known as burros and asses, which are seen all over the world. Members of the Equidae family, donkeys are cousins of horses and zebras, but they tend to have longer and floppy ears, and look stockier than other hoofed animals.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Donkey Facts
- Donkey Says Hi!
- Donkey Parts
- Donkey Basics
- Donkey FAQs
- A Donkey’s Tale
- Two Hoofed Animals
- Donkey Subspecies
- Donkey in Shrek
- As Working Animals
- Donkey’s Tail
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Link will appear as Donkey Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, June 3, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
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