Donkeys are adapted to marginal desert lands. They need less food than horses. Overfed donkeys suffer from a disease called Laminitis (inflammation of the hoof). Donkey fur is not waterproof, and so should have shelter especially when it rains. Wild donkeys live separated from each other, unlike tight wild horse herds. Donkeys have developed very loud voices, which can be heard for close to 2 miles (over 3 kilometers). Donkeys have large ears to hear the distant calls of fellow donkeys, and to help cool the donkey's blood. Donkeys' tough digestive system can break down inedible vegetation and extract moisture from food more efficiently. Donkeys can defend themselves with a powerful kick of their hind legs.

It is believed that the ancestor of the modern donkey is the Nubian subspecies of the African Wild Ass which was domesticated around 4,000 B.C. The donkey became an important pack animal for people living in the Egyptian and Nubian regions as they can easily carry 20% to 30% of their own body weight and can also be used as a farming and dairy animal. By 1800 B.C., the ass had reached the Middle East where the trading city of Damascus was referred to as the "City of Asses" in ancient texts.

The donkey makes a number of appearances in the Christian Bible. In the Old Testament, God chose to speak through a donkey to show Balaam the folly of his ways. In the New Testament, Christ rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Legend has it that the cross on the donkey’s shoulders comes from the shadow of Christ's crucifixion, placing the donkey at the foot of the cross. It was once believed that hair cut from this cross and hung from a child's neck in a bag would prevent fits and convulsions.

In 1495, the ass first appeared in the New World brought by Christopher Columbus. Shortly after America won her independence, President George Washington imported the first mammoth jack stock into the young country.

Despite these early appearances of donkeys in American society, the donkey did not find widespread favor in America until the 1800s. Miners preferred this animal due to its ability to carry tools, supplies, and ore. Their sociable disposition and fondness for human companionship allowed the miners to lead their donkeys without ropes. They simply followed behind their master. Sadly, with the introduction of the steam train, these donkeys lost their jobs and many were turned loose into the American deserts. Descendents of these donkeys can still be seen roaming the Southwest in herds to this day.

By the early Twentieth Century, the donkey became more of a pet then a work animal with the appearance of the miniature donkey in 1929. It is said “Miniature Donkeys possess the affectionate nature of a Newfoundland, the resignation of a cow, the durability of a mule, the courage of a tiger, and the intellectual capability only slightly inferior to man's.” Standing only 32 - 40 inches (80 – 102 centimeters), many families were quick to recognize the potential these tiny equines possessedas pets and companions for their children. The donkey is also popular in North America as a mount, for pulling wagons, and even as a guard animal. Some standard species are ideal for guarding herds of sheep against predators since many donkeys have anatural aversion to canines and will keep them away from the herd.

It is difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it sees as contrary to its own best interest, as opposed to horses who are much more willing to, for example, go along a path with unsafe footing.

Donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn. They are many times fielded with horses due to a perceived calming effect on nervous horses. If a donkey is introduced to a mare and foal, the foal will often turn to the donkey for support after it has left its mother.

Our Donkeys are Sardinian Donkeys. The species originally came from the island of Sardinia, which is off the southwestern coast of Italy and live in dry, mountainous regions. They have small, narrow hooves that help on steep mountains where no horse is able to travel. They have amazing strength and endurance on low quality food and can go longer without water than any other member of the horse like animals. Sardinian donkeys are the descendents of the wild asses of Africa and first domesticated in ancient Egypt. The Sardinian Donkey has a life span of approximately 35 years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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P.O. Box 449  Dallesport, WA 98617

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