Domestic donkey Equus africanus f asinus

It is said that the donkey is the horse of the "poor people" and undeservingly it remains in the shadow of its more famous relatives. It is not actually headstrong, dumb, and lazy. It has only a more evolved instinct of self-preservation, which allows it to preserve itself from human service. The donkey does not as a rule bond emotionally to humans as horses do. If it has good treatment and a warm stable, it is a priceless helper, especially in stony terrain. It does not mind hot weather or miserable food, it hates only dirty water and rainy weather.

The domestic donkey is the descendant of two subspecies of the African ass. The Nubian wild ass (E. a. africanus) was domesticated in 5000 B.C. in the Nile Valley and in the area of Libya, today it is assumed extinct. The second subspecies is the Somali wild ass (E. a. somaliensis). It was also domesticated in the area around the Persian Gulf, and is today nearly extinct. The descendants of both subspecies crossbred and quickly spread, thanks to military expeditions and lively mercantile bustle, through Palestine to western Asia and farther to the east through Morroco to the Pyrenean Peninsula, where they arrived in the second millenium B.C. It is known that during the first millenium, the Celts were breeding donkeys. The Asiatic ass (Equus hemionus) was for some time an object of interest but domestication did not succeed due to its uncontrollable nature.

Donkey breeds have never reached the number of varieties that horse breeds have. They differ in height (from 2 to 5 ft [0.6-1.5 m]), in weight (175 lb-990 lb [80-450 kg]), in color, and in the quality of hair. The donkey is still a common component of country life in the Mediterranean, the Balkans, south Asia, South America, and other subtropical and tropical areas. Feral donkey populations live for many generations in the southwest United States and in Australia.

Humans have used horses and donkeys to breed hybrid species. The most famous is the mule, the offspring of a female horse (mare) and a male donkey (jackass). A second hybrid is less known, the dunce hinny, whose parents are a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion). Hybrids inherit more traits from the mother. Another interesting inter-species hybrid is the zebroid. It is the offspring of some zebra species and a horse, or rarely a donkey.

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