FACTS ABOUT THE MINIATURE DONKEY
BY Carolyn Christian
A miniature donkey is affectionate, extremely comical and a joy to own. They are by nature people loving. They truly care
for his or her family and are like the family dog. They are playful and will develop lasting bonds with humans.
The intelligence of the miniature donkey is superior to all other farm animals. They are thinking and reasoning creatures.
The miniature donkey is easily trained. They are not so flight oriented that they will hurt themselves or others when startled
as is the case with other equine. That intelligence at times makes them appears stubborn. Quite the opposite is true. They
do not put themselves in harm's way which can lead to accident or injury.
The average life span is 25 to 35 years but with good nutrition and proper care, miniature donkeys have been known to live
Mature height is 36" and under. The Miniature Donkey Registry accepts miniature donkeys who measure 36" and under. Their
small size makes them easy to handle for both adults and children.
Males are called “jacks" .
Females are called “jennets" or “jennies" .
Males that have been castrated are called “geldings" .
Babies are called “foals" until they are weaned.
Babies that have been weaned and are under a year old are called “weanlings" .
Donkeys that are between one and two years old are called “yearlings" .
Miniature Donkeys are registered through the Miniature Donkey Registry which is administered by the American Donkey &
Mule Society at www.lovelongears.com
Mature weight is between 225 and 350 pounds.
Gestation is 11.5 to 13 months with an average around 12 months. Foaling problems are uncommon in miniature donkeys. Owners
will want to brush up on the care of the pregnant jennet and the things to look for as foaling approaches. See Carolyn's article
on “Signs of Foaling" .
Colors are gray, brown, black, red (or sorrel), spotted and a more rare solid white color called frosted spotted white.
The color of their muzzle and eye rings designates what is called “points" . Most donkeys have white around their eyes
and muzzles. That is called “light points" . A donkey with a dark muzzle (almost always having an absence of white around
the eyes) is said to have “no light points" or NLP for short.
Almost all donkeys will have a "cross". The cross is a darker brown or black dorsal stripe running from the top of the
donkey's back from the withers (where the neck connects to the back) and extending to the rear and down the tail. There is
also a shoulder stripe that intersects the dorsal stripe at the withers running down each shoulder. There is a legend called
the “Legend of the Donkey's Cross" . It states that Jesus rewarded the donkey for his loyalty to Him when he carried
Jesus into Jerusalem and staying with Him at the crucifixion by placing the shadow of the cross across the donkeys back for
all to remember the importance of God's humblest of creatures.
Miniature donkeys have relatively few health problems. They are hardy animals used to most anything the environment can
throw at them. They thrive in the cold regions of Canada and the hot areas of Mexico, South America and Africa. For information
regarding their care, see Carolyn's article on “Care of the Miniature Donkey" .
MINIATURE DONKEY ANATOMY
Responsible breeders should always breed for excellent conformation in their foals. That is necessary for the health of
the donkey and the welfare and future of the breed. Although perfect conformation is impossible to achieve and subject to
breeder preference, the following should be included in any discussion of good conformation.
Proportion – This means that each body part is proportionate to every other body part, i.e. the head isn't too big
or too long for the neck and body, the length of the body isn't too long for the legs, the neck isn't too long for the head
and torso, etc. A longer back is acceptable in the brood jennet in order to give her more room for gestation and delivery
of the foal. You can't always define proportion but you can certainly tell a well-balanced donkey when you see it because
it has great eye appeal.
Body Type – There are two body types in the miniature donkey. One is called drafty or stocky and the other is called
refined. A drafty body type is seen when the donkey is thicker, legs are larger, rump is wider, and neck is thicker. The overall
look is one of heavier bone. A refined body type is seen when the body parts are thinner and not as heavy looking. Both body
types are acceptable although breeders today tend to like a more drafty look in their breeding stock.
Head – A shorter head and wider forehead is preferred over a long and narrow one. Heads can be roman, flat or dished.
Roman heads are more convex while dished heads are more concave.
Teeth – The teeth should meet perfectly. A slight overbite or underbite is acceptable with the Miniature Donkey Registry
as long as it does not exceed ¼" . A severe overbite is called “parrot mouth" while a severe underbite is called “monkey
mouth" . Occasionally, foals will be born with an overbite or underbite but they grow out of it at maturity. It all depends
on the genotype (heritable characteristics) in the pedigree. Bad bites are highly heritable and donkeys that have them should
not be bred.
Topline – A straight topline is preferred. Although the miniature donkey is naturally slightly higher in the rump,
this height should not be excessive. A sway back is a conformation fault.
Legs – Miniature donkeys are naturally slightly cow-hocked because they are a draft animal and descendants of draft
animals. Cow-hocks are common in draft animals used for work. It helps pull a load because they can more easily get their
feet under them to aid in pulling.A miniature donkey's legs should be straight to only slightly cow-hocked. Severe cow-hocks
are a conformation fault. When viewed from the front, legs should not be knock-kneed or bowed. Hooves should not be facing
away from the donkey or underneath him or her. This is referred to as “toe-in" or “toe-out" . Ideally, all 4 hooves
should face directly forward and legs should be straight. Additionally, when viewed from the profile, the donkey's canon bone
should be in perfect alignment vertically with his tail set (where his tail meets the rump).
Width – Miniature donkeys should have good width between their front legs as well as their back legs. Lack of width
is referred to as “close" in front and/or back. This width is particularly desirable in the brood jennet in order for
her to have more ease in foaling due to a wider body frame.
Rump – The rump should be full and round when viewed from the profile or above the donkey. When viewed from the profile,
the tail should appear to simply lie on the rump rather than dangle from it as in the case of a pointed rear. When viewed
from the top, the rump should form a “U" and not a “V" .
BREEDING MINIATURE DONKEYS AS A BUSINESS
Miniature donkeys are fun to breed and a wonderful means of making additional income. They are small, easy to manage and
healthy. There has been a continual demand for miniature donkeys and the prices have remained relatively stable for many years
even through the ups and downs of the economy. It appears that the breeders who breed for good conformation, keep their numbers
relative to the demand, and market well are those who are successful. Additionally, the miniature donkey is easy to market
because they sell themselves with their affable disposition, love of people, and easy going nature.
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH THEM?
There are many activities you can enjoy with a miniature donkey. They are easy to train to lead and pull a cart. What fun
it is for a couple of kids (or middle aged kids!) to ride in a cart pulled by a donkey.
You can take them to county fairs, nursing homes, schools, church, birthday parties and other such venues. They are a hit
wherever they go and they enjoy the adventure as well. You can show them. There are many local, regional and national shows
around the country that you can attend and show in halter and/or performance classes.
Some miniatures have become registered therapy donkeys through the Delta Society (www.deltasociety.org) and bring joy to sick and terminally ill children in children's hospitals and our veterans at VA hospitals.
But the most important thing you can do with them is to share them with family and friends. Miniature donkeys bring families
together; children with parents, grandchildren with grandparents. They teach us that family fun is much more exciting than
TV or video games. We learn to relax as we laugh and observe their comic ways.
Miniature donkeys open a door to a magical and joyful world that we would never have entered without them. The best
answer to the difficult question of “What do you do with them?" is found in the response one new miniature owner gave
us years ago. When asked what he wanted to do with his miniature donkey he just purchased from us he replied, "I want to drink
coffee and grow old with Pedro." At last word, they are doing both.