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Abyssinian Donkey

Equus asinus

  1. Not Evaluated
  2. Data Deficient
  3. Least Concern
  4. Near Threatened
  5. Vulnerable
  6. Endangered
  7. Critically Endangered
  8. Extinct in the Wild
  9. Extinct

About Us

Woburn Safari Park is home to three Abyssinian Donkeys. The male is called Choco, named after his lovely chocolate brown coat. Bunny and Tasha are our two females, both are grey in colour. Our donkeys have a friendly temperament, you will find them and their good friend Holly the Shetland Pony in the Animal Encounters section.

Distribution
Native to Ethiopia
Habitat
Dry and mountainous areas
Height
8.4 and 10 hands (86 - 102 cm or 34 -40 inches) at the highest point of the withers (shoulders).
Weight
90 - 210 kg
Gestation Period
11 - 13 months
Lifespan
30 - 40 years in captivity

Social structure

Little is known of the wild behaviour of Abyssinian donkeys. Generally, donkeys are hardy animals, who derive nourishment from poor quality food and can tolerate considerable heat and dehydration. Donkeys are highly intelligent and have a strong sense of self-preservation. They are wonderful protectors to flocks of sheep and goats as well as herds of cattle and will defend themselves and their companions vigorously. As a herd animal, donkeys graze in groups and are always on hand to run down or trample a predator or discourage it with a strong and well-aimed kick. With their quiet nature, donkeys are a calming influence on their more skittish cousin, the horse. Donkeys are known to be docile, playful, curious and affectionate. 

Diet

In their natural habitat donkeys have to forage for lond distances to get a full meal; eating small quantities of various desert plants throughout the day. The grass, leaves, bark, twigs and weeds that they eat are low in protein and high in fibre. A donkey's digestive system does a good job of utilizing the protein from low protein grasses. 

In captivity they are fed on a diet of hay, grass and leafy branches (browse). We also provide donkeys with a mineral salt block; this is licked when they are in need of extra minerals. 

Physical features

Abyssinian Donkeys are mainly greyish in colour and have a black stripe across the withers, however they can also be found in chestnut brown. Donkey's coats tend to be longer and coarser than those of horses, although texture can vary. On the nape of the neck there is a stiff, upright mane, the hairs of which are tipped with black. The ears are large with black margins. The tail ends with a black brush. The hooves are slender, approximately the diameter of the legs.

Breeding behaviour

Research on the breeding behaviour on the Abyssinian Donkey has yet to be studied. Breeding season may vary according to timing of wet or dry seasons. Foals are born after an 11 -13 month gestation and can walk and suckle at just two hours old. 

Threats and conservation

The number of Abyssinian Donkeys globally is unknown and they are not currently threatened with extinction. Nowadays, the Abyssinian Donkey is widely known and bred in captivity in all parts of the world. These animals can tolerate harsh environments and difficult working conditions. Donkeys are still well deserving of the name 'beast of burden', typically transporting materials in rural, arid and semi-arid araes and where roads are poor or non-existent. These donkeys provide a vital service to many people, transporting farm produce to markets, building materials or carrying supplies of clean water to households. Donkeys are robust animals but in many ways their hardiness works against them. Their pain threshold prevents many owners from noticing when their donkeys are sick or injuried. Many owners can only afford minimal food, shelter and medical care.

Thanks to dedicated organisations and a change in human beliefs, habits are slowly changing worldwide. There are still a large number of donkeys which need aid. Local vets and animal health workers are starting to communicate this message and as a result improving the wellbeing of many donkeys. In recent years, donkeys have also become popular pets and are bred for riding. 

Fun facts

A cross between a male donkey and a female horse is called a mule, and a male horse and a female donkey produces a hinny.

The donkey is related to the horse and zebra, all of which belong to the same family known as 'Equus'.

The donkey has adapted to tolerant tough conditions in the wild and can go without water longer than any other equine animal.