A Guide to the Cutest Baby Donkey Facts, Pictures, and FAQs
Baby donkeys are very cute, and well developed at birth. They create a real bond with their parents, and their wider family. They are smart, good communicators and grow up to be incredibly strong. They are a lot of fun to observe as they find their way in the world. They even grow to be stronger than horses of the same size, and less easy to frighten.
We take a look at some amazing baby donkey facts, and bring together some pictures and frequently asked questions about these lovable animals.
Baby Donkey Facts
Baby Donkeys Are Called
Like their baby equine cousins the horse and zebra, baby donkeys are called ‘foals‘. They are usually born without siblings. The process of a donkey giving birth is usually called ‘donkey foaling‘.
Once a baby donkey reaches a year old they become ‘yearlings‘. Male donkeys are called ‘jacks’ and female donkeys are called ‘jennies‘, or sometimes ‘jennets‘ depending on the region. Donkeys are also sometimes regionally known as an ‘ass‘, or a ‘burro‘, but this is only correct for some breeds.
You may also hear males being called a ‘gelding‘ if they are castrated, or a ‘stallion‘ if they are uncastrated. Females may also be known as a ‘mare‘. These are common terms for males and females across all equine species including horses and mules. These terms are more commonly used for domestic donkeys, bread in captivity, rather than wild donkeys.
There are no specific collective nouns for a group of young donkeys, but there are several for a group of donkeys in general. The most common collective nouns for a group of donkeys are a ‘pace‘, a ‘drove‘ or a ‘herd‘ of donkeys.
Baby Donkeys Are Born With Amazing Ears And Eyes
Baby donkeys are born with very cute, big floppy ears. Much bigger than other equine species. They may even look oversized for their heads. But a donkey’s large ears are not only incredible at picking up sound, they are useful in a variety of other ways too.
For a start, a donkeys ears can pick up the call or ‘brey‘ from another donkey up to 50-60 miles away in the right conditions. This is very helpful in large open areas of barren land or desert where they commonly live in the wild.
The positioning of their ears can also tell you how a donkey is feeling. When they are positioned facing to the side, it means they are content, relaxed or happy, but they will also focus their ear toward any sound that may startle or alarm them. When they do feel threatened, unlike horses they will stiffen up and refuse to move.
A donkeys ears also help to keep it cool and to flick away any flies and parasite carrying pests from their face.
Donkeys eyes are also exceptional, providing peripheral vision that covers almost a complete 360 degrees. This is down to the side positioning of their eyes, which provides a much greater field of view than we humans have. It is so wide, that they can see all four of their feet at the same time!
Baby Donkeys Can Stand Shortly After Birth
Once a baby donkey is born, it’s not long until it is able to stand on it’s own four legs. It takes time for them to learn balance, and the motor skills required for competent walking, but from as little as 30 minutes after they are born, they can stand.
By the time they can stand, they are also ready to nurse and take milk from their mothers. In domestic stock, it is considered unusual if a foal doesn’t stand or nurse from its mother within the first two hours after birth.
Baby Donkeys Are Very Intelligent
Donkeys, are not really considered by most people as being intelligent animals. It probably doesn’t help when a common name for a donkey is an ‘ass’. In one UK study, as many as 74% of people surveyed did not consider donkeys to be intelligent. But nothing could be further from the truth.
According to a 2013 study conducted by The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK, donkeys demonstrated that they possess similar cognitive abilities as both dolphins and dogs when it comes to learning and problem solving. This implies that donkeys can recall positive or negative experiences for lengthy periods of time.
Other sources suggest this long memory that they have allows them to remember old friends, faces and places for up to 20 years! So they can carry memories from childhood well into their adult lives.
In further demonstrations of their intelligence, donkeys actually have their own ‘language’ using various sounds and body language to effectively communicate. They will also refuse to go into any situation that they consider to be too dangerous, digging their feet into the ground and stubbornly remaining still.
Baby Hybrids Between Donkeys, Horses And Zebra Are Not Uncommon
Baby donkeys, particularly domesticated breeds, often grow up in smallholdings, homesteads and farms along with other domestic animals. This can make for some interesting outcomes when it comes to breeding.
Beyond mating amongst themselves, donkeys have been known to interbreed with horses, and in the wild, with zebras too! That results in a variety of different hybrid breeds.
A union between a male ‘jack‘ donkey and female ‘mare‘ horse yields what we commonly call a ‘mule‘. When the sexes are reversed, combining a female ‘jenny’ donkey & male ‘stallion‘ horse, the resulting offspring is called a ‘hinny‘.
Where donkeys and zebras mate together, the offspring may be classified as either zebroid, zonkey or even better yet – Zeedonk! Such unions are rare, only really occurring with wild species that live in the same territory.
When zebra, or horses and donkeys do reproduce, the offspring are typically sterile and can not reproduce any further.
Baby Donkeys Grow Up Very Strong
Besides their more gentle appearance, baby donkeys grow up to be incredibly strong. In comparison to a horse of the same size and weight, a donkey is the stronger of the two.
Horses are faster, and more powerful animals, but donkeys of the same size are more intelligent and up to three times stronger. However, most horses tend to be bigger than donkeys.
Mules, which are a hybrid of a donkey and a horse, are smaller and wider than horses, but stronger than either the donkey or the horse individually.
It is their strength and also their stoic, steady nature that make donkeys renowned pack carriers. While horses are more likely to flee in the face of danger, a donkey will stand fast.
Baby Donkeys Live in Large Families
Baby donkeys are very social animals and get on well in domestic settings with not only other donkeys, but other farm animals in general. You may see baby sheep in the same small holding as baby donkeys. There may even be some types of baby deer in the same farm, when kept for livestock.
In the wild, they are usually brought up in a herd that is led by one jack donkey and includes several jennies and later, their offspring.
Wild herds can however, be much bigger. It’s not unheard of for numerous male donkeys to come together to form larger herds with many females, but this only occurs when the other males are compliant with a dominant male.
Interestingly enough, some wild donkeys do not appear to have any type of enduring social connections since their wild colonies regularly disintegrate and reform with new participants.
Some Baby Donkeys Are Endangered
Domestic donkeys are widespread, but some wild donkeys have mixed fortunes. While there are a few popular and secure domestic breeds, some of the wild breeds are not as well protected or secure.
Two such endangered species include the African Wild Ass, and the Asiatic Wild Ass. With only 23 to 200 African wild asses remaining, the species has been labeled as critically endangered. The Asiatic wild ass population numbers are estimated to be around 28,000 and while not critical, they have a near threatened classification on the IUCN red list.
In complete contrast, Australia has a bit of a wild donkey problem, with millions of feral donkeys living across the continent. These can cause significant damage to small homesteads and farms due to the amount of vegetation and food they can poach.
Baby Donkey FAQs
What Is the Lifecycle Of A Baby Donkey?
From the point of conception, female donkeys have a gestation period of around 11-14 months depending on the breed. Foals will stay close to their mothers once born, nursing on their mothers milk and nothing else for the first 2-4 weeks. After this, they will start to add solid food to their diet.
At around 5-6 months, foals are weaned completely. In the wild, they will continue to stay with the herd for a while, until eventually heading off to find a mate or new herd. They become yearlings at their first birthday, and remain so until they reach the age of three.
Between the ages of 16-20 months, male donkeys go through puberty, before becoming sexually mature around the age of 3. However, with some breeds jack donkeys can become fertile from as early as one year of age!
Female jennies may also become fertile from as early as 1 year old, but will not reach ‘maturity’ until around 3. In domestic populations, breeding should be delayed until that time.
Across the range of breeds, the average life expectancy of a donkey is between 25-40 years. There are examples living longer than this in captivity, but it’s rare.
How Many Donkeys Are Born In A Litter?
In the vast majority of cases, donkeys are usually born as single births. Twins do occur, but less than 2% of the time. Where twins do occur, both foals will survive only around 10-15% of the time.
What Do Baby Donkeys Look Like?
Baby donkeys are similar in shape to other equine species, with distinctive bodies and long heads. Unlike horses and zebras though, a baby donkey does not develop a waterproof coat and they will seek shelter when it rains. The also have longer ears and are smaller in size than most horses.
How Big Do Baby Donkeys Grow?
When they are born, foals typically weigh 19-30 pounds (8.6 to 13.6 kg) but this does vary between species. Some, mini donkeys can weight as little as 15 pounds at birth. Once maturity is reached the weight of a full grown foal can range from 400 to 500 pounds!
Wild donkeys are generally larger than domestic breeds, and can weigh up to 550 pounds in adulthood.
What’s The Difference Between A Wild And A Domestic Baby Donkey?
There are a few main differences between domestic and wild baby donkeys. For a start, domestic donkeys are typically reared to be used as pack animals or for their dairy produce. They are easier to socialise and less stubborn in the presence of other species.
Most wild and feral species of donkey are larger than domestic species. They can grow up to around 125 cm at the shoulder, whereas domestic species are around an inch shorter and as much as 25 kg lighter in general.
What Do Baby Donkeys Eat?
For the first few weeks of their lives, as they are mammals, baby donkeys will get their nourishment only from their mothers milk. After a few weeks they start to introduce some of the herbivorous foods that their mothers eat. They get a taste for it from their parent, and learn what foods they should be eating from her.
As they grow, they are grazers and as such they eat a lot of grasses, shrubs and vegetation. As they often live in arid, barren or desert areas in the wild, they will eat many types of desert plants too.
Domestic species are usually fed a diet of hay and straw to add to the grass they eat in the fields.
What Foods Can Baby Donkeys Not Eat?
There are many foods that baby donkeys should not eat. This is important for people to know when visiting domestic stocks. Many people like to feed animals like donkeys and horses over the fence, when visiting sanctuaries and farms but if you don’t know the foods to avoid you can do harm to these animals.
Foods to avoid include anything from the brassica family of foods – onions, leeks or garlic. These can all be toxic for donkeys. Also, stoned fruits such as plums and peaches contain cyanide in the pit which can also be very harmful to donkeys.
What Is The Smallest Breed Of Donkey?
The smallest donkeys in general, are, as you would expect, miniature donkey breeds. They usually grow to around 36 inches in shoulder height, and to a weight less than 400 lbs. As babies, they are around 33 lbs in weight.
The smallest donkey on record, according to the Guinness Book Of Records, is a Mediterranean Miniature Donkey called KneeHi. At birth, KneeHi had a height of 16.5 inches, and now stands at only 25.29 inches tall as an adult. Most miniatures stand up to around 36 inches in shoulder height.
What Is The Largest Breed Of Donkey?
American Mammoth Jackstock are the largest donkey breed. They are the result of breeding other large stock imported to the USA in the late 18th Century with the purpose of generating a large, working animal. These large donkeys grow to be around 56 inches (143 cm) at the shoulder and weigh up to 950 pounds (430 kg).
Where Do Baby Donkeys Live?
Wild donkeys are pervasive in the Middle East, North Africa and Arabian Peninsula as well as Tibet. The kiang or Tibetan wild ass species is found across China, India, Nepal and Bhutan’s northern regions while also inhabiting northern Pakistan.
In contrast, domesticated donkeys are global in their distribution, yet they are most commonly found in their preferred dry and warm climates. They were imported to the Americas as work animals during the colonial era.
In terms of population, there are more donkeys in Ethiopia than any other country. China and Pakistan are other countries with the largest population of donkeys.
Baby donkeys, rest within their herd during the hottest part of the day and tend to be more active at dawn and dusk. They travel with the herd.
Natural Predators Of Baby Donkeys
Baby donkeys are vulnerable to predation from various animals. When they are very young they will usually stick very close to their mother for protection, but given the chance, there are many predators waiting to pounce.
The most common predators of baby donkeys include wolves, coyotes, bears and big cats like lions, cougars, and even jaguars. Mothers have a better chance of protecting against a single predator, but struggle when their are many, such as a pack of wolves.
Donkeys are sometimes kept to protect smaller livestock like chickens from attack by foxes and coyotes, as they will become aggressive and chase off these predators. But a pack is harder to deal with than a single predator.