Donkeys, zebras and mules all differ somewhat from horses in conformation. The most
noticeable difference is of course the ears. Donkeys' ears are MUCH longer in proportion to their
size than a horse's. The necks are characteristically straighter in the longears, and most donkeys
and all zebras lack a true wither. The croup and rump are also a different shape in the donkey and
its hybrids, lacking the double-curve muscled haunch. The back is straighter due to the lack of
withers. Dipped loins or severely swayed backs are a conformation fault, unless in old animals or
brood jennies who have produced many foals, and not due to genetic factors.
The mane and tail in the donkey are coarse. The mane is stiff and upright, rarely laying
over and the tail is more like a cow's, covered with short body hair for most of the length, and
ending in a tasseled switch. Donkeys do not have a true forelock, although sometimes the mane
grows long enough to comb down between the ears toward the eyes. Because the mane is stiff
and sometimes flyaway, many donkeys, especially show stock, wear their manes clipped short or
shaved close to the neck.
Hoof shape varies as well, donkey hooves are smaller and rounder, with more upright
pasterns. The legs should have good bone, but many donkeys of common breeding may appear to
have long thin legs with tiny feet. Larger Asses such as the Poitou or Andalusian types may appear
opposite, with huge, heavy shaggy legs and large round feet. Good legs and feet are essential for
breeding Mules, as a good foot is much preferable to a large body on tiny stick legs and feet.
The vocal qualities are the frequently remembered differences in the long-ears. The
donkey's voice is a raspy, brassy Bray, the characteristic Aw-EE, Aw-EE sound. Jacks especially
seem to enjoy braying, and will "sound off" at any opportunity.
Although many donkeys are the familiar gray-dun color, there are many other coat shades.
Most donkeys, regardless of coat color, will have dorsal stripes and shoulder crosses, dark ear
marks, as well as the "light points" - white muzzle and eye rings, and white belly and inner leg.
Leg barring ("garters" or "zebra stripes") may be present as well. Small dark spots right at the
throatlatch, called "collar buttons" are a good identifying marking and occur occasionally. These
typical donkey markings may be passed on in part or whole to Mule or Hinny offspring.
Colors in the donkey range from the gray shades of gray-dun to brown, a rare bay (though
not as red-toned as in horses) , black, light-faced roan (both red and gray), variants of sorrel
(Registry term - RED), the blue-eyed Ivory (also called cream or white-phase), Frosted/spotted
White, and a unique Spotted pattern. True horse pinto, horse aging gray, horse appaloosa,
palomino and buckskin (cream dilute), Champagne, pearl and silver (aka Silver dapple) do not
occur in the donkey.
The more unusual colors are the Dappled Roan, where the face and legs are light and the
body is marked with "reverse" dapples (dark spots on a light background, as opposed to the horse
dapple where the dapples themselves are light on dark), frosted gray (with light faces and legs and
some white hairs in the coat) the pink-skinned, blue-eyed Ivory white, and the frosted spotted
white. The frosted spotted is an apparent combination of a graying or roan with the spotted
pattern, and can throw either more FSW, spotted, or frosty roan colts. The animals are best
defined as a spotted animal where the skin is spotted but the color does not necessarily show
through on the coat (it has roaned or "grayed"; out) . Frosted spotted white (FSW) can be
identified from Ivory white by checking the skin around the eyes and muzzle. Ivory (creams) will
have blue eyes and true pink skin, while FSW will have dark eyes, dark "eyeliner" and dark
spotting on the skin.
Another unusual variant of the spotting line is the "tyger spot" pattern. These donkeys vary
from the typical large spots over the ears, eyes, and topline. The body will be covered with small
round spots resembling the appaloosa type.
Donkeys come in a variety of sizes from the Miniature Mediterranean (under 36 inches) to the
elegant Mammoth Jackstock (14 hands and up ). The rare French Poitou donkey, characterized
by it's huge head and ears, and very thick, shaggy, curled black coat, can stand 14 to 15 hand
high. (There are estimated to be about 400 purebred Poitous left in the world today.)
The types of donkeys are labeled by their sizes; 36" and under, Miniature Mediterranean,
36.01-48", Standard, 48.01" to 54" (jennets) or 56"; (jacks), Large Standard, and 54/56" and over,
Mammoth Stock. There are no real populations of BREEDS of donkeys left, such as the
Catalonian, Majorcan, or Andalusian. Modern donkeys can strongly resemble these ancestral
breeds in TYPE, but are not classified as those breeds unless they have traceable pure-bred
pedigrees to those lines.
Donkeys can be used just like horses under saddle and in harness, although donkey are
more laid back and self-preserving in nature. They prefer to do what is good for the donkey,
which is not always what the human thinks is best (especially when it comes to getting their feet
wet...). They are very friendly, and their nature makes them excellent for children. Donkeys can
perform all the gaits horses or mules do (yes, some are even "gaited", exhibiting a single-foot gait),
but galloping is usually not on the program unless dinner is being served.
Donkeys can also make wonderful guard animals - the right donkey gelding or jennet will
take care of an entire herd of cattle, sheep or goats - the natural aversion to predators will inspire
the donkey to severely discourage any canine attacks on the herd. Dogs and donkeys usually don't
mix, although they can be trained to leave the house or farm dog alone!
Feeding Your Donkeys
Donkeys characteristically get by on less food than a horse of similar size, and need a lower
protein content in their feed. Good grass hay and pasture is usually all a donkey needs. If grained,
the protein should preferably be lower than 12%. Donkeys can founder on rich food such as
alfalfa and lush spring grass. A fat donkey will develop a "roll"; on the neck, pones of fat on the
barrel and over the hips that are quite unsightly. Once there, these are usually with the donkey for
life. If the neck roll of fat gets too heavy, it will fall or "break over" to one side and never come
upright again! Beware overfeeding these hearty creatures!
Your donkey should receive the same hoof care, worming and vaccinations that horses
receive. Although some basic research has been done in independent studies on the results of
vaccinations in donkeys, there is not enough conclusive proof to show that regular horse
medicines, wormers and vaccinations are not effective in donkeys.
The hoof of the donkey is a little more round and upright than that of the horse, although
individual hoof shape may vary greatly. Many farriers are nervous about working on donkeys -
thinking the hooves are vastly different, or that donkeys are too stubborn and will kick - but a
well-trained donkey can be just as easy to trim as any horse. Most donkeys don't need shoes -
but if they do lots of work on hard surfaces, they might be needed. Regular trims to keep the hoof
in shape are usually all that is needed. The ADMS has a hoof packet available ($10 ppd) that can
help farriers with their first donkey trims.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Donkeys bred to donkeys produced DONKEYS. Donkey, Burro, Ass, jackass, jennet, Miniature
Donkey, Mammoth, Jackstock, standard, Mexican Burro - they are all terms for Donkeys.
A male donkey (Jack) bred to a female horse produces a MULE. Mules can be either male or
A male horse (stallion) bred to a female donkey (jennet) produces a HINNY. Hinnies can be either
male or female.
Where can I find a saddle that fits my donkey? Donkeys vary individually as much as horses do.
Many people find a MacClellan saddle (military), some English saddles, Arabian tree barrel saddles,
or many Australian (Aussie) saddles work. It's a matter of measuring and then trying on several to
find the best fit.
Questions? We are working as quickly as possible to get the site back up and running, but if you
do have questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Answers to more FAQ.....
Miniature Donkey (foal)
Under 36" at the withers.
Light red Miniature Mediterranean
Donkey Jack, "Fame".
A small standard donkey, very round and
fat. See the bulge of fat on the neck.
And no, HE is not going to have a baby!
Standard donkeys - can be grouped as
Small standards (36.01-40") and
Standard donkeys (40.01-48")
Large Standard donkey (this is
Crimson, 52" tall). The height range is
48.01" to 54" (jennets) or 56" (Jacks)
Mammoth Jackstock - jennets are over 54" in height, jacks are over 56". Some will
be in excess of 62", but they may tend to get too leggy and lose substance.
Anything between 15-16 hands is usual.
A VERY few have been over 17 hands.
The current World Record is being finalized for Romulus, a gelding in Waxahachie
Texas that measured exactly 17 hands in February 2013.
New to owning a donkey? We recommend our
book The Definitive Donkey! Available through the
ADMS/Hee Haw Book Service.
We are the authors, publishers and distributers.
Buy direct, don't be conned by huge prices on the
$25. ppd in the USA (Inquire for Canadian or
overseas shipping). Email us or use paypal now!
Need the Hoof Care packet emailed to you as a
PDF? Use paypal now, $10 to
email@example.com and we'll email it to you!
Want to know more about Donkeys and Longears? Join the American Donkey and Mule Society and recieve the BRAYER magazine. ~90
pages bi-monthly (6x yearly), Just $27 US, $37 for Canada, $50 for overseas members. Back issues from past years also available.
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