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Last updated date: 27th Feb 2024
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What is Ass?

There is a confusion between what is ass as its domesticated version name that is donkey is more popular. There is not much difference between ass and donkey except their names where one is for the wild and the other for the domesticated animal respectively. Hence ass and donkey are often used interchangeably when referring to this animal species. The scientific name of the donkey or ass is Equus asinus belonging to the genus Equus, of the family Equidae in the Animalia kingdom. The ass animal is widespread in many geographic locations. More than 50 million donkeys inhabit the world and the population of Africa, Asia, Central America, Eurasia, Europe, North America, Oceania, and South America are very familiar with what is ass and its physiology uses, and all its purposes. Let us learn more about the donkey ass animal, its characteristics and behaviour, and its importance.

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Characteristics of Ass Animal 

An adult male ass is called Jack and a foal is a baby male or female donkey up to one-year-old whereas an adult female donkey is called jenny or jennet. The gelding is referred to as a castrated male donkey. A rig is an entire male donkey with no signs of external testicles.


Distinctive Features

Colour of an ass animal

It can be brown, black, white, grey and even roan which is a mixture of pigmented colours. 

Body of the donkey

It has a distinct body that is Stocky body and makes hee-haw sounds called bray.

Size of ass animal 

The average weight lies between 200kg - 258kg that is 441lbs - 570lbs and the average height is around 90cm - 130cm which is between 35inches - 51inches.

Natural Habitat

The donkey tends to reside in Arid forests and deserts.


It is a herbivorous animal and feeds on the grass. 

Type of skin

The donkey has furry skin down their backs from mane to tail and across their shoulders. 

  • The ass animal is a good runner especially in its natural habitat where it lives as a wild species and can run at a Top Speed of 15 mph. 

  • It preys on the weeds, vegetables, and mainly on the grass and its predators are wolf, lion, and fox. The ass animal has worked with the human species for millennia when it was first domesticated in Egypt or Mesopotamia around 3000BC. 

  • The first documented domestication is however recorded only 5000 years ago and has helped humans navigate the world. 

  • The average lifespan of an ass or donkey is 15-30 years but many live for about 50 years if properly fed and tended with attention and care. 

  • The body temperature is regulated by their large ears which act as a large fan. 

  • They have a self-preservation trait before entering any situation they exhibit reduced flight response.

  • They defend themselves by biting and striking with the front hooves, they often start stomping on anything that they feel is a threat and also via kicking with the hind legs.

  • They survive even in the extreme poverty-stricken areas where horses do not and function as transporters.

  • They carry out and live a lifestyle in a herd with other donkeys and are active during the morning and evening and rest during the hottest part of the day.

  • They keep in touch and communicate with others of their kind via bray, a loud cry.

  • The ass is a voracious eater and enjoys hay, oats, grains and in the desert, they feed on desert plants and shrubs.

  • They grab the food, mainly grass, via their large mouths and grind it by chewing before swallowing, consuming up to 6,000 lbs of food each year. 

Breeding of Donkeys 

  • Donkeys are not particular about mating only with other jacks and can interbreed with other members of the family Equidae, like the horses. The hybrid between a jack and a mare adult female horse is a mule.

  • The gestation period is 11-14 months so a jenny is only expected to produce one foal a year or in some cases a mule. 

  •  The jennies in about 10 days come to heat and can reproduce after giving birth but in most cases, they wait for 2 more oestrous cycles for the reproductive tract to be conducive.

  • After birth, Jenny can stand for about 30 minutes to nurse the foal which is about 19-30 pounds in weight.

  • Donkey is ready to mate only at 2 years old and the jenny is extremely protective of its foal and weans it for about five whole months.

Importance and Uses of Donkeys

The donkeys hold great importance in warfare and economic progress and development. 

  • There are many donkey parks around the world where the visitors experience a calm place and gain comfort from the calming nature of the donkeys.

  • Certainly, the main and primary use post domestication was to carry and transport the heavy loads.

  • Used for draught work in agriculture.

  • In developed countries where their use as beasts was the case before its domestication, the burden on the animal has disappeared, and donkeys are used to sire mules and to guard sheep.

  • For recreational activities and entertainment,  donkey rides are given for children and tourists.

  • Some developed nations use it just as pets as they are fond of them.  

  • Italy stands first in equine meat consumption and other countries like China and Africa also enjoy it as a delicacy.

  • They are slaughtered for milk and meat and the numbers are a staggering 3.5 million a year.

  • In the first world war, the donkey or ass was used to rescue injured and wounded men who went to the battlefield.

  • In many wars of Italy and Afghanistan, it was used for carrying war gear and explosives. 

Interesting and Fun Facts About Donkeys

  1. It is often misconstrued that donkeys are weaker and docile animals but contrary to popular belief among the same sizes of donkeys and horses the donkeys are relatively stronger animals.

  2. The donkey can see both their fore and hind legs at the same time.

  3. When a donkey brays that is often referred to as Hee-Haw, the sound made by a donkey to communicate, its cry can be heard up to 60 miles in the desert.

  4. Whatever the ass animal eats 95 percent of it is utilized for their incredibly inefficient digestive systems.

  5. Around the world, in parts of Asia, Europe, South America, and Africa the donkeys still serve families and are their source of income.

  6. Even after 5000 years, donkeys remain a working class.

  7. Donkeys bond in pairs and often a donkey who can see acts as a guide to the ass who is blind.

  8. Ass is a very keen animal and always curious about everything with clever intelligence.

  9. Even with their curious nature the donkeys are reluctant and consider all possible situations when they sense something to be unsafe or dangerous.

  10. The donkeys can cross over any kind of terrain due to their nimble nature.

  11. Even with a similar appearance as a horse the donkeys do not bond with their kind only. 

  12. They have an undeserving reputation of being stubborn as it stops moving and freezes when startled and they only do so to assess the situation.

  13. The smallest donkey is only 24 inches in size called the Sicilian donkey. 

  14. The term ass for this animal is no longer used due to its pejorative context and has been unpopular since 1785. 

FAQs on Ass

Q.1) Can Asses be Bred as Pets?

Ans.) The ass animal can be bred as pets and those are called Donkeys. The pets are rather social creatures unlike the wild ass and thrive when kept in small companionable groups. When they are kept as pets especially by farmers or in the olden times they may form small family groups and thrive in bonded pairs. Ensure to know all the necessary details about the routine and diet for management of the animal before adopting them as pets. The donkeys can be bought at a lower price so that may be the reason for their popularity of keeping them as pets.

Q.2) What is the Difference Between a Donkey and an Ass?

Ans.) Ass is nothing but just another name for the animal donkey. While over a period the wild forms of these animals have been domesticated by the humans to serve their purpose and help in other chores there are wild species of it who are still referred to as the asses or wild asses in various parts of the world.

Q.3) Are the Ass Animals or Donkeys Dangerous?

Ans.) Donkeys can be a serious hazard on farms where other animals tend to attack them. Traditionally they were used to protect other livestock against wild animals like wild dogs and wolves. Donkeys have a very straightforward and no-nonsense approach to self-defense and are vicious creatures who attack with their two-hoofed kick. Donkeys chase away any kind of intruder whether it is humans, deers or bears. They even bray and bare their teeth ready to bite as a protection mechanism for their livestock. In the United States, in some farms, the donkeys still act as sentries against coyotes. They use their strong senses to detect intruders.

Q.4) Are Other Animals Afraid of Donkeys?

Ans.) Whenever the need is, donkeys are still used for serving as security and protection from foreign intruders into their livestock. They are territorial creatures especially the wild asses and have a natural tendency and instinct to run dogs and coyotes out of their territory. Experts say a well-placed kick from an angry donkey is usually enough to drive away any predator. Any predator who has encountered an angry ass’s kick would be utterly cautious before entering its zone again.