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Animal Reference

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Donkey (Equus asinus)

15 March 2016



Physical description

There are 3 subspecies. It is ideal as a pack animal because of its ability to move about in mountainous regions. Donkeys vary considerably in size with a shoulder height between 91 to 147 cm.


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www.leopard.tvArea and habitat

The donkey is adapted to arid and desert habitats. They have larger ears than the horse; hence the long ears in a mule which is a sterile hybrid between a donkey and a horse. The long ears help in cooling the blood and are an advantage in hot regions. The donkey has a life-span of 30 to 50 years.




Feral donkeys occur in herds of 10 to 30 animals. Although formal studies of their behaviour and are limited, donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn. Listen to the sound a donkey makes.


Gestation period about 12 months. A mare usually gives birth to a single foal. Births of twins about 1.7%, both foals survive in about 14% of those.



Donkeys have a tough digestive system which can digest almost inedible vegetation and extract any moisture from the food efficiently. Spend 14 to 16 hours a day in foraging for food and they prefer plants that are high in low-energy fibre.

Weight: 200kg - 258kg
Shoulder height: 91 - 147cm
Top Speed: ± 24km/h
Life-span: 30 - 50 years




Humans, foxes, wolves and lions known to be the biggest predators of the donkey.



Interesting facts

  • A donkey can carry 20 to 30% of its body weight on its back as a pack animal.
  • It is estimated that there are at least 40 million donkeys in the world11 million of them occurring in China
  • A male donkey is colloquially known as a jack (the name jackass is sometimes used) and a female as a jenny.
  • The original wild ass had a grey to tawny coat colour, with three dark vertical stripes over the shoulder.

Read the full article written by Prof J du P Bothma.



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