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Domestication Alterations

  1. last few thousand years: Now knowing that donkeys were first domesticated within the last 5-6 thousand years, many impacts of humans have shaped the donkey species into what it is today. Normal impacts of domestication on all (or most) animals are as follows:
  • smaller size
  • faster growth rate
  • breed in captivity
  • more flexible diets
  • temperament (less likely to panic)

These are all true of the donkey, as well. Domesticated donkeys are said to have shrunk in size considerably. Donkeys (especially domesticated ones) are a very relaxed animal, and develop very quickly- they are considered mature (sexually) at two years old (Bough, 2011). However, domestication has brought about many different species of donkey, each of which has adapted to its surroundings in the process.


Poitou Donkey (France)                                   Zamorano-Leones Donkey (Spain)

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                                                                  Burro Donkey (Mexico)


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Here’s just a few of the species. Notice how in colder territories like France, the Poitou Donkey has developed a shaggy coat to protect itself in the winter months, as compared to the Burro Donkey of Central America, with a thin, smooth coat allowing the animal to breathe through its skin. Domestication over the last few thousand years has created these differences in the looks of the donkeys, as well as how each adapts to their surroundings.

Each breed of donkey is utilized in different ways. For most however, their main use is for transportation. Humans are always finding different, more efficient ways of doing things, so having a donkey that’s adapted to its surroundings and is able to travel in their own environments productively was essential for globalizing, expanding, and building human civilization.

  1. Last 500 Years

Over the last few hundred years, the donkey was replaced (and respectively so) by the horse (Clutton-Brock, 1992). A larger, stronger, faster, more agile animal has come to fit the “shoes” of the donkey. A few things have happened because of that.

  1. In many parts throughout the world, the donkey is becoming endangered- both the domestic and wild species. Without a need for them as much anymore due to globalization (easy accessible meat, better transportation methods, etc) they have started dying out.
  2.  Before, the donkey was a renowned symbol of greatness, more specifically, the penis of the donkey. Humans were depicted of having smaller penises years ago, and the size of the donkey’s was praised. However, as the donkey started becoming less and less useful, the symbolism of the donkey turned from greatness to stupidity. Now, the donkey is thought of as idiotic, stupid, and dumb. Hence, the term dumb ass comes about. (Anthony, 2007)

On the other hand, humans have also generated new species of animals within the last few hundred to a thousand years. By crossing paths between donkeys and horses, humans have successfully created two new species:

  1. The Mule- A mix between the male donkey, or Jack, and a female horse (mare), the mule is a sterile animal, meaning it cannot have any offspring. Its body type is more like a donkey..


2.  The Hinny- A mix between a male horse (stallion), and a female donkey (jenny), the hinny is also a sterile animal (in most cases).            Has the head of a horse, but a fatter body.


(Bough, 2011)

  1. Last 50 years

Due to decreased demands, certain types of donkeys are consistently on the endangered species watch. Reasons to that include the influence of the horse, the introduction of the automobile, and many other forms of transportation. Some people have taken notice to this, and now there are associations such as The British Donkey Breed Society. This, along with many other breed societies, helps protect each individual species of donkey, including regulations, lobbying, and so on. Who knew donkeys were such a large part of modern day society? (British Donkey Breed Society, 2013)

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