Donkey Useful Domestic Animal

Donkey is a member of horse family known as Equidae. It is a domesticated animal. The scientific name of donkey is Equus africanus asinus. The wild ancestor of donkey is the Wild African Ass. In the western United States a small donkey is sometimes known as burro. A male donkey is known as a jack while the female is called as jenny. The young ones less than one year are known as foal. Different members of the family Equidae can be taken for interbreeding and the resulting offspring is completely sterile. The horse/donkey hybrids are very popular for their vigour and durability. A mule is the offspring of male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare). The mating of a male horse and a female donkey produces hinny. Donkeys are under the process of domestication since 3000 BC when horses and donkeys arrived on planet earth. They fulfill a number of demands of humans especially by acting as burden carriers. The females normally remain pregnant for about 12 months but the gestation period continues for a period of 11-14 months. Usually a single foal is born. Twins are very rare about 1.7% Jennies are supposed to give birth to twins. The survival rate of the twins is only 14%.

The body size varies considerably depending upon the breed and management. Most domestic donkeys are 0.9-1.4 m tall but the Mammoth Jack Breed is the tallest breed reaching a height of 1.6 m. They are adapted to marginal desert lands for which they are loaded with a number of adaptations. Wild donkeys live separated from each other, a feature different from that of the wild horse and feral horse herds. They have very loud vocalizations by which they communicate with other donkeys which remain spread in different areas of the desert. The best known call is designated as bray which can be heard over a distance of three kilometers. They bear larger ears in comparison to that of the horses. Larger ears are effective in picking up the sound vibrations as well as they keep the blood of the animal cool. The donkeys living in the wild defend themselves by kicking the foes with their powerful hind legs and by biting and striking with their front hooves. They have a tough digestive system so they are less prone to colic infection like that of horses. They are able to retract moisture from food very efficiently and can also feed on inedible food material. They require less food material in comparison to the horses of same weight and height. Overfeeding in donkeys may result in a condition known as laminitis.

Braying is a sound characteristically produced by ass, donkeys and mules. The sound typically lasts for about 20 seconds. They live for about 30-50 years. They spend 14-16 hours of the day in browsing and foraging the food. In their native areas like the arid and semi-arid deserts the food availability is poor. The domesticated donkey owners face the challenge of meeting the exact food requirements of these animals. In the temperate areas the food availability is very good which results in weight gain of the donkeys and the problems of laminitis and, hyperlipidemia and gastric ulcers also are at an increased risk. Although the digestive system of donkeys follows the same plan as that of the horses but the latter are more efficient food absorbers than the formers. They require 1.5% of food matter per day according to their weight while horses require2-2.5% of food matter per day. It is not fully clear that why donkeys are more efficient digesters than that of horses although they have a different gut microbial flora in the large intestine as compared to that of the horses. They have a increased gut retention time in comparison to the ponies.