Equus asinus Domestic Donkey


  • Equidae


  • 30 or more years


  • Height: Over 36” but under 48” at the withers (shoulder)

  • Weight: 300-600 pounds


  • Donkeys are domesticated descendents of the African Wild Ass


  • Donkeys evolved in a desert habitat but have been domesticated for over 2000 years


  • Wild: Grasses and other plant matter

  • Zoo: Hay


  • Females mature at around 3 years of age.  They will go into heat cycles every 18-21 days.  Gestation lasts between 11 and 13 months after which a single foal is born.  Foals are walking within 30 minutes of birth and will be weaned at 5 or 6 months old. 

Special adaptations

  • Donkeys have larger ears than horses, which help to cool them – an adaptation to living in warm weather

  • Donkeys have very powerful bites and kicks which they will use in defense

  • Donkeys have loud vocalizations which help them to keep in contact with each other, even over long distances


  • Dun (gray) is the most common color of donkeys, although other colors and patterns are present in domestic breeds.

  • Donkeys were historically used as pack animals to carry heavy loads over long distances.  They were more desirable than horses since they are smaller in size, hardier, and can subsist on poorer quality of food while still being able to carry substantial weight.

  • Modern uses for donkeys include transport and being kept as pets.

  • Captive donkeys are commonly under threat of being overweight, since the quality of food likely to be fed is higher than the food they would have encountered in the wild (more calories per food item), along with decreased levels of activity.

Conservation status

  • The domestic donkey is not listed as being threatened, however there are wild Equids which are in dire need of protection:

    • African Wild Ass

    • Asiatic Wild Ass (Onager or Kulan)

    • Przewalski's Horse (Mongolian Wild Horse)


  1. CITES Appendices. Accessed December 2012. www.cites.org
  2. IUCN Red List of Endangered Species. Accessed December 2012. www.iucnredlist.org

Domestic & Miniature Donkeys