Africa - Egypt

Photo supplied by the Donkey Society of NSW Inc. ©

It is believed that the donkey originated from subspecies of the African wild ass in Nubia but little is known about its domestication. The earliest findings were made in Lower Egypt at a site at Ma'adi.
Donkeys were popular pack animals as they could be easily led by any type of halter and could be trained to follow a route on their own. They increased the mobility of the local people as riding animals providing the opportunity to search for new pastures. Donkeys proved vital in developing the long-distance trade through the Egyptian deserts. In ancient Egypt large herds were held providing a source of meat and mares were kept as dairy animals with the milk used for drinking, as medicine and as a cosmetic. The animals proved also useful for farm work, treading seeds into the fertile Nile floodplain and threshing the harvest.
Eventually donkeys spread to almost every part of the world. By the end of the fourth millennium BC they had reached south west Asia, by the second millennium BC Europe, by 1800 BC the centre of ass-breeding had shifted to Mesopotamia, and in 1495 donkeys arrived in South America on a supply ship for Christopher Columbus.
In the 19th century donkeys played an important part in North American desert mining operations carrying water, wood and machinery to the mines, hauling cartloads of rock and ore out of mine tunnels and carrying the ore to the mills. They also turned the mills to grind the ore. At the end of the mining boom most donkeys were set loose and many still live freely in the American desert.
More recently a new interest in the donkey developed using its guarding instinct as it can protect an entire herd of cattle or sheep from predators. Donkeys also gain interest in recreational activities and appear on stock shows where their stiff manes are often clipped short or shaved close to the neck.

differ in conformation to horses
Head: long ears
Neck: straight
Body: straight back due to lack of true withers; often dipped or swayed backs
Legs: good bone; upright pasterns
Feet: small, round hooves
Mane: stiff, upright, rarely laying over; no true forelock
Tail: coarse; covered with short body hair, ending in tasselled switch
Color: predominantly grey-dun; all shades of grey-dun to brown; spotted patterns, dorsal stripes, shoulder crosses, dark ear marks, white muzzle and eye rings, white belly and inner leg; occasionally zebra stripes
Height: miniature to 14 hands and up
Voice: raspy, brassy bray; Aw-EE, Aw-EE sound; enjoy using voice at any opportunity
Temperament: lazy, self-preserving, stubborn, friendly
Qualities: great guarding instinct, good with children, trainable

correct term for a donkey
Jack: male ass
Jennet: female ass, often called Jenny
Get: offspring of a jack
Produce: offspring of a jennet
Jennet Jack: jackass used to breed to jennets to produce donkeys
Mule Jack: jackass used to breed to horse mares to produce mules
Jack Stock: American Mammoth jack and jennet, one of the largest types of asses
Burro: Spanish word, describing a working donkey in Spain and Mexico

Donkeys are becoming popular as recreation and companion animals. They are suitable for riding and harness work and occasionally replace horses as pack and riding animals on wilderness tours. On farms they are used to halterbreak calves and to guard the herds of stock, protecting them from predators.