Donkey

The ass is the wild relative of the donkey. Donkeys were probably one of the first beasts of burden. Over the last few thousands years they have spread to all continents, though the natural range of wild asses is from Oman to Morocco.

Unfortunately, the African wild donkey has suffered a significant decline in numbers and it is currently regarded as endangered.

ANIMAL FACTS

These wild asses live in a harsh environment, resting during the heat of the day and emerging in the late afternoon to feed and drink. Herds also move in the early morning. Males use their dung as territorial markers, but will tolerate the presence of younger stallions in their territories. Hunting by people has pushed the African wild donkey to the edge of extinction.

Wild asses are now very rare, especially in Arabia. They live in small herds made up of a single male and several females. Sometimes larger groups come together, which contain several of these harem-type groups. The group grazes in the morning and evening. This allows it to seek shade and avoid the heat in the middle of the day. Asses are cautious animals and will shy away from the unfamiliar. This is the root of a donkey’s stubbornness.

The ass looks like a small and sturdy horse. Wild asses tend to be longer but more slender than domestic breeds of donkey.

VITAL STATISTICS

Distribution: Northeastern Africa, now restricted to Eritrea and Ethiopia. Formerly ranged more widely to the west and north, reaching Libya, Sudan and Egypt.

Habitat: Hilly desert.

Weight: 230 - 275 kg  (500 - 600 lb).

Length: 2 m (6.6 ft); tail up to 50 cm (20 in); up to 1.45 m (4.75 ft) tall.

Maturity: 2 years.

Gestation Period: 11 - 12 months.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs at 6 - 8 months.

Food: Grazes on grasses and other plants, also eating bark and leaves.

Lifespan: Up to 40 years.

Status: Common.

Ears

These are tall - helping the ass to detect sounds over long distances - and edged with black hair.

Colouration

Greyish with brown on the upperparts and white underparts.

Striping

The variable striped patterning on the neck is also apparent on the legs, allowing individuals to be distinguished.

Hooves

The black hooves are tough but slender in appearance, corresponding to the width of the leg.

The Poitou donkey is a distinctive French breed, with a long, shaggy brown coat and no stripe on its back.

Striping

The variable striped patterning on the neck is also apparent on the legs, allowing individuals to be distinguished.

MALE DOMINANCE

Males will fight each other by rearing up on their hind legs and lashing out with their hind feet. The distinctive black stripe running down from the mane can be seen here.

Kiang Tibetan Ass

This is the largest of the wild asses. It inhabits some of the most inaccessible terrain on earth and lives in herds of up to 400 individuals.

The name kiang is the native Tibetan description for these asses. They live in closely structured herds, led by an older female. Males tend to live solitary lives, although younger males do form herds over the winter. Mating occurs in the late summer, when food is at its most plentiful. Pregnant females go off on their own at this stage to give birth.

Distribution: The Tibetan Plateau in Asia, in remote montane grassland areas at altitudes of 4000 - 7000m (13,123 - 22,966 ft). Also found in northern Nepal, along the Tibetan border.

Weight: 250 - 400 kg (550 - 880 lb).

Length: 2.1 m (6.9 ft); tail up to 50 cm (20 in); up to 140cm (55 in) tall.

Maturity: 1 - 2 years.

Gestation Period: 11 - 12 months.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs at about 12 months.

Food: Grazes on grasses and other low-growing plants on the plains.

Lifespan: Up to 20 years.

Ears

The ears are both large and mobile.

Chestnut

All members of the horse family have this rough area on the inside of the front legs above the knee. It is thought to be the remnant of a lost digit.

Colouration

The upperparts are reddish-brown, with clearly defined white underparts and rump.

Unlike horses, these asses do not spend time grooming each other.

DETERRING ATTACK

Wolves are the only major predators threatening these asses, who can defend themselves by kicking with their hind legs.

Gallery of Donkey