Donkeys, the long eared relative of the horse and zebra, are familiar on sight to most people. The majority of the donkeys we are familiar with are descended from Spanish donkeys. Miniature Donkeys are native to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. The first animals that were originally imported into the U.S. were between the sizes of 32 inches and 38 inches. In the ensuing years breeders have concentrated on developing a consistently smaller animal so that the range today is for these properly balanced little animals is more in the 30 inch to 35 inch range.
The original miniature donkey registry, The Miniature Donkey Registry (MDR) was established in 1958 by the Langfelds of the Danby Farm in Nebraska. It set a size standard up to 38 inches at the withers at maturity. This registry was passed on, intact to the American Donkey and Mule Society (ADMS) who now continues to operate it as well as the American Donkey Registry (ADR) used for donkeys with a mature height of 36.01 inches and over. The standard for the miniature classification has been adjusted to a maximum height of 36 inches.
As a general rule the smaller the miniature animal is at maturity, the more valuable it is. This rule often applies in reverse for the standard and mammoth classifications where the very large animals tend to be more valuable. Conformation will, of course, play a large role in the ultimate value of each animal as well as the color. Generally the more uncommon color, the more valuable the animal.
The miniature donkey averages from 250 to 400 pounds, most are in the smaller range. They can live to be 30 to 35 years of age and have been known to be productive until the last few years of their life.
These animals are friendly and quite people-oriented by nature. Given attention they tend to become pests in the pasture nudging and pushing against their human visitors hoping for some petting and treats. This attitude is one of the most appealing factors involved in the decision to purchase a donkey. A donkey can be a rewarding investment financially as they hold a good, stable market price, reproduce consistently, easily and for a long time. They also make excellent pets that are intelligent, friendly easy to care for and long lived. Donkeys are love that money can buy.
All donkeys eat the same types of feeds, miniatures just eat less. Pasture grazing is nice, but caution must be taken to observe the condition of the animal. Donkeys tend to get obese on constant grazing and should be rotated off into a controlled area if their weight climbs too high. These are a desert animal and are not meant to eat lush greenery on a constant basis. With hay available in the winter or in pen situations a clean grass hay should be the basis of diet. So called “hot” hays such as alfalfa should be used in extreme moderation particularly with miniatures as they tend to be a little strong. A good mixture of alfalfa and timothy or a clean oat hay is preferable. A feed analysis should always be run so that the available nutrients can be determined. Remember that the appearance of a hay does not reveal its actual feed value.
A grain mixture is usually a supplement to pasture and hay especially in the winter. A good 14% grain mixture is available commercially already prepared for horses. This should be fed in moderation based upon the weight of the animal. Miniatures are particularly susceptible to overfeeding of grain and generally do not require any at all in the summer months and should be moderated to probably 1 pound or less per day each in the winter. It is hard to resist those big brown eyes when it comes to feeding, but keep in mind the health of the animal is in your hands.
The single most important feeding practice is to keep a constant watch on the condition of your animals. Animals can become obese just as humans and suffer from the same sort of ailments connected with humans who are overweight. Animals not receiving the proper nutrients can rapidly loose weight. The time of year plays an important factor in animal nutrition as well. Winter feed needs to be higher in energy and fat than those used in the summer to provide more heat.
An animals’ nutritional requirements can vary according to the time of year as well as the use of the animal. A lactating mare or jennet has different needs than an open one or a growing filly. A jack servicing a herd of jennets has a higher need than a pet gelding.
- Hooves – The hooves of the donkey should be trimmed every 2 to 3 months.
- Minerals and salts – Salt blocks and loose minerals or mineral blocks designed for equine should be made available free choice at all times.
- Shelter – Although donkeys are quite hardy they should be provided with shelter from the wind, snow, hot sun and flies. Generally a three sided shed is sufficient.
- Vaccinations – Generally all areas require vaccinations against tetanus, viral encephalomyelitis, equine herpes virus and influenza. In some areas or depending on circumstances vaccinations may be in order for strangles, rabies and Potomac horse fever according to your veterinarians’ instructions.
- Water – Fresh, clean water should be available at all times.
- Worming – All equine should be regularly wormed. The frequency of the treatment depends upon the conditions in which the animal is maintained. Animals which kept in small areas with others of their same species need more frequent worming than those on a large pasture. A rotation program is usually the best so that tolerance to specific types of wormer preparations does not occur. There are also different types of parasites that are killed by different types of medications, these can be handled by the rotational process. If you are in doubt, your veterinarian can run an inexpensive fecal test to determine which parasites, if any, are present and recommend the medication to treat them with.
- Ass – One of several common terms for the donkey, the proper name
- Burro – One of several common terms for the donkey
- Donkey – The most common name
- Foal – Baby donkey
- Gelding – A castrated jack
- Hinny – A hybrid cross breeding between a Stallion horse and a jennet donkey
- Jack – Male donkey
- Jennet or Jenny – Female donkey
- Mule – A hybrid cross breeding between a horse mare and a jack
- Zedonk – A hybrid cross breeding between a Zebra stallion and a jennet donkey, also known as a zonkey