The donkey or ass, Equus africanus asinus, is a domesticated member of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E. africanus. In the western United States, a small donkey is sometimes called a burro (from the Spanish word for the animal). A male donkey or ass is called a jack, a female a jenny, and an offspring less than one year old a foal (male: colt, female: filly). While different species of the Equidae family can interbreed, offspring are almost always sterile. Nonetheless, horse/donkey hybrids are popular for their durability and vigor.
A mule is the offspring of a jack (male donkey) and a mare (female horse). The much rarer successful mating of a male horse and a female donkey produces a hinny. Asses were first domesticated around 3000 BC, or 4000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world. They continue to fill important roles in many places today. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass and another relative, the Onager, are endangered. As “beasts of burden” and companions, asses and donkeys have worked together with humans for millennia. Contents [hide] 1 Scientific and common names Characteristics 2. 1 Breeding 2. 2 Nutrition 2. 3 Behaviour 2. 4 Communication 3 History 4 Present status 5 Economic use 5. 1 Shoeing 6 Feral donkeys and wild asses 6. 1 Wild asses, onagers, and kiangs 7 Donkey hybrids 8 Cultural references 8. 1 Religion, myth and folklore 8. 2 Literature and film 8. 3 Colloquialisms, proverbs and insults 8. 4 Politics 9 See also 10 Further reading 11 References 12 External links Scientific and common names Traditionally, the scientific name for the donkey is Equus asinus asinus based on the principle of priority used for scientific names of animals.
However, the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature ruled in 2003 that if the domestic species and the wild species are considered subspecies of each other, the scientific name of the wild species has priority, even when that subspecies was described after the domestic subspecies.  This means that the proper scientific name for the donkey is Equus africanus asinus when it is considered a subspecies, and Equus asinus when it is considered a species. Until recently the synonym ass was the more common term for the donkey, as in jackass, meaning “male donkey”. The first written use of donkey is as recent as 1785. 5] While the word ass has cognates in most other Indo-European languages, donkey is an etymologically obscure word for which no credible cognate has been identified. Hypotheses on its derivation include the following: Perhaps a diminutive of dun (dull grayish-brown), a typical donkey colour.  Perhaps from the name Duncan.  Perhaps of imitative origin.  The homonymity in the United States with a vulgar term ass for “buttocks” may have influenced its gradual replacement by donkey there, though this does not account for the parallel change in Britain and Australia. citation needed] Characteristics Donkeys vary considerably in size, depending on breed and management. The height at the withers ranges from 80 to 160 cm (31 to 63 in), and the weight from 80 to 480 kg (180 to 1060 lb). Donkeys have a lifespan of 30 to 50 years.  Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands, and have many traits that are unique to the species as a result. Wild donkeys live separated from each other, unlike tight wild horse and feral horse herds. Donkeys have developed very loud vocalizations, which help keep in contact with other donkeys over the wide spaces of the desert.
The best-known call is referred to as a “bray,” which can be heard for over three kilometers. Donkeys have larger ears than horses. Their longer ears may pick up more distant sounds, and may help cool the donkey’s blood. Donkeys in the wild can defend themselves with a powerful kick of their hind legs as well as by biting and striking with their front hooves. Breeding A 3 week old donkey Jennies are normally pregnant for about 12 months, though the gestation period varies from 11 to almost 14 months.  Jennies usually give birth to a single foal.
Twins are very rare: only about 1. 7 percent of donkey pregnancies result in twins, and both twins survive in only about 14 percent of cases.  Nutrition Poitou donkeys. Donkeys’ tough digestive system is somewhat less prone to colic than that of horses, can break down near-inedible vegetation and extract moisture from food very efficiently. As a rule, donkeys need smaller amounts of feed than horses of comparable height and weight. Because they are easy keepers, if overfed, donkeys are also quite susceptible to laminitis.