Miniature Donkeys

Developed in the Mediterranean, Miniature Donkeys can make good pets and are best kept with other animals.

by Dani Yokhna
PHOTO: Kathleen Conklin/Flickr

Use: Miniature Donkeys are mostly kept as pets and companions for other equines. They can be taught to drive and pull a small cart. Small children can also ride them, and they can be trained to carry a small pack. Some horse breeders use them to help foals learn how to lead.

History: Miniature Donkeys were developed in the Mediterranean, just north of Africa in ancient times. The modern version of these donkeys originated on the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. Their small size made them suitable for turning grinding stones for grain inside simple houses. Eighteenth century wood block pictures show these small donkeys, attached to grain mills and walking in endless circles wearing blindfolds. They were also used to carry water from village wells, and to haul shepherd’s supplies into the mountains. Since 1929, Miniature Donkey pedigrees have been recorded in the United States. This date coincidences with the first importation of Miniature Donkeys in the United States. More Miniature Donkeys were brought to the U.S. in the late 1950s and 1960s. An official registry for Miniature Donkeys was started in 1958. Now almost extinct in Sardinia and Sicily, Miniature Donkeys have become a popular pet in the United States, and are catching on in England. The American Miniature Donkey Society and the National Miniature Donkey Association register these equines. Currently, the Miniature Donkey Registry lists 52,000 registered Miniature Donkeys.

Conformation: Miniature Donkeys range in size from 25 inches (the smallest on record) to 36 inches at the withers. They weight from 200 to 350 pounds at maturity. Like all donkeys, they have long ears, a coarse and upright mane, no forelock and a tail covered with short hair and a tassel at the end. Miniature Donkeys come in a number of colors, including gray-dun (or slate gray), red (sorrel), black, brown and spotted. They usually have light tan markings around the muzzle and eyes. Some have dark points. Miniature Donkeys are known for their gentle and affectionate natures.

Special Considerations/Notes: Miniature Donkeys are herd animals and do best when kept with other donkeys or livestock.

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