The donkey is also known as the ass and belongs to the horse family Equidae. The African Wild Ass (E. africanus) is the ancestor and the present day donkey has been given the scientific name Equus africanuss asinus. They are mostly used as working animals and according to historical data they have been used for such purpose for over 5000 years. Based on current reports there are over 40 million donkeys around the world. Only a very few number of them are used for breeding and as pets in the developed countries.
The males are known as jack and are mostly used in the production of mules. The female is known as jenny and the kid is known as the foal. The first evidence of the domestication of the asses dates back to the Mesopotamian era in Egypt. Even though the domesticated variety is increasing in number, there are other variations like the Onager and the African Wild Ass which are now endangered. The first use of the word donkey was in 1784 or 1785, until then the word ass was mainly used to refer to these animals. There were several reasons like homophones and word similarities that led to this change in name.
There are donkeys of various sizes based on the breed and its maintenance. The size range is mainly between 80 to 160 cm and weight of 80 to even 480 kg. The normal life span is 30 to 50 years but in poor working conditions they live for about 12 – 15 years. They are best adapted to the desert lands and the wild varieties in these areas do not form harems. The adult donkey defines a range and this area will usually have a single jack ass. The donkeys bray loudly as it is a mode of communication to keep in contact with others in the desert. The large ears help to pick up sound and also cool the donkey blood.
The jenny remains pregnant for about 12 months and delivers a single foal, even though there are rare cases of twin foal deliveries. Donkeys can be cross bred with other members of the Equidae family. A jack when cross bred with a mare produces a mule which is mainly used for riding and domestic jobs. A stallion can be bred with a jennet to produce a hinny. Both hinny and mules are sterile.
Unfortunately donkey is used as an expression meaning someone not very smart, as these animals are rather stubborn. In particular calling a player a donkey at the poker table is not a great compliment. In texas holdem games on the Web or in a casino, the donkeys are the bad players whom the pros seek in order to feed on them. Fish and donkey are synonym in this context, and to be stubborn is a bad habit in a card game.
For self-defense, donkeys use techniques like biting, striking and kicking. They are renowned for their stubbornness. After several researches into this characteristic of the donkey, it has been found to be for self-preservation. If you try to force a donkey to do some act that it detects to be dangerous, you can observe that the animal will not budge. This is in case the donkey has not built a strong relation with the commanding human. Donkey can be easily domesticated and it is easy to earn their confidence. Once domesticated efficiently, they can be a form of great help in work. Even though donkeys are thought to be foolish, studies have revealed that these animals are intelligent and cautious ones.