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11 Types of Donkeys

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The donkeys that we know and love in North America are a melting pot of breeds from around the world.

Today’s donkeys are such a conglomeration of imported types from various countries that few, if any, donkeys on this continent are purebred.

In the United States and Canada, 3 distinct types of donkeys are recognized, and they are categorized by their size.

These include the American mammoth, the standard, and the miniature donkey.

Across the world, some of the purebred donkeys that helped to establish the North American donkeys still exist.

They may not possess large numbers anymore, but they have managed to survive the test of time.

American Mammoth Donkey

Origin Country: North America
Height Range: 54-56 inches
Colors: Varies including grey, black, brown, chestnut
Traits: Strong, docile, and extremely hardy

The American Mammoth donkey was developed by crossbreeding several imported donkeys over the years including the Marjorcan, Catalan, and the Andalusian.

It was developed to help fill a need for strong working mules.

Colors can vary but only solid-colored donkeys can be included in the American Mammoth Jackstock Association.

The tallest American mammoth donkey alive today stands a staggering 17 hands tall, which is approximately 68 inches!

Standard Donkey

Little donkey standing on the bluebonnet field

Originating From: North America
Height Range: 
36-56 inches
All colors but most often are black, brown, or red
Stout, brave, and able to withstand harsh conditions

Standard donkeys in North America are used most often as guard animals for livestock, pack animals, riding, and to pull wagons.

As guard animals, this type of donkey is known to fight off predators.

Standard donkeys are the perfect size for defending livestock from coyotes, wolves, and other predators.

They are also known to make excellent companion animals for horses and other livestock.

Miniature Donkey

A small and shy miniature donkey

Originating From: North America
Height Range:  
36 inches and smaller
Varies but usually solid gray-dun or black with a cross or distinctive stripe down and across their back
Stocky and strong, able to pull a shocking amount of weight

Miniature donkeys make great farm animals because they require little upkeep and food.

Miniature donkeys make great companion animals, but they can live for up to 35 or more years, so they require a long commitment.

Their short height makes them easy to handle and care for, but they can still defend themselves easily when needed.

Miniature donkeys resemble other small-sized donkeys from around the world, but they are not pure bred, so they are usually only recognized in this country by their small size.

American Spotted Ass

American Spotted Ass

Originating From:  North America  
Height Range:
 36-56 inches
Various colors  
 Hardy, stocky, and strong-willed

While donkeys are most often categorized by their size in North America, the American Spotted Ass is categorized by its unique coloring.

Most donkeys do not have spots, but occasionally they do!

They are often the result of various types of donkeys. To be considered a true American Spotted Ass, it must have 2 or more spots behind their throatlatch, the bend in the neck where the donkey’s jaw starts.

The spots must be behind this bend, down the neck and on the body, not just on their face.

Andalusian Donkey

Andalusian Donkey

Originating From: Andalusia, Spain
Height Range: 
59-63 inches
Pale grey, white, and sometimes solid black
Thrive in hot climates and tend to be calm and friendly

Andalusian donkeys were once so treasured in their home country that they were not allowed to be exported until 1785.

Andalusian donkeys are large sized with a muscular build and known for their pleasant temperament.

They are currently considered a critical breed with only 749 total Andalusian donkeys remaining as of 2013.

Catalan Donkey (Catalonian)

Catalan Donkey

Originating From: Spain and France
Height Range: 
54-56 inches
Dark brown with a white nose
Traits: Resilient, hardy and intelligent. They have long heads and thin upright ears.

Considered an ancient breed, the Catalan donkey was extremely popular in its prime because it was vital for the success of many farms.

It was so popular that is made its way to America and helped establish the types of donkeys we have today.

These animals are have long heads and thin upright ears.

They are known as smart, hardworking animals which made them a great fit for needs on a farm. Unfortunately, its popularity has waned through the years.

Like the Andalusian donkey, the Catalan donkey population is in danger.

While there were once around 50,000 or more roaming the world, in 2013 there were only 851 left in Spain.

Balearic Donkey (Majorcan, Mallorquin)

Balearic Donkey

Originating From: Mallorca, Spain
Height Range: 
40-56 inches
Black or close to solid black with lighter shading on their belly and nose    
Strong, sturdy, reliable farm work animals

The Balearic donkey, also called the Majorcan or the Malloriquin, is lighter and smaller than the Catalan, but it shares a lot of similarities.

These are hardworking animals that are able to perform farm work like plowing, packing, and pulling carts or wagons.

Once one of the most prized donkeys in Spain, the Balearic donkey was close to disappearing.

Thankfully, in 2013, there were 464 Balearic donkeys located in the Balearic Islands, much more than years past.

African Wild Ass

African Wild Ass

Originating From: Africa, Ethiopia, Somalia
Height Range:
49-57 inches tall
Grey to light brown
Thrive in hot climates and tend to live apart rather than in large groups

Known as the ancestor of the modern donkey, the African Wild Ass is often grouped in the donkey category.

They can run almost as quick as a horse can but, unlike a horse, they are known to stand their ground if a fight comes their way.

They have a thin dorsal line that goes down their backs. Their mane has a distinctive black tip, and their ears are outlined in black.

The African Wild Ass is considered endangered, and only a couple hundred are thought to still be in the wild today.

Poitou Donkey

Poitou Donkey

Originating From: France
Height Range:  53-55 inches
Range from deep brown to solid black
Friendly and calm

Poitou donkeys were not brought to North America in large numbers. As of 1996, only 30 or so Poitou donkeys remained on the continent.

In fact, there are only around 400 purebred Poitou donkeys in the entire world.

Poitou donkeys are the only breed that sports a distinctive long coat.  Their long locks can grow so long that they touch the ground!


Two wild Burros

Originating From: Mexico
Height Range: 
35-60 inches
Hardy, small, and intelligent

The burro population in Mexico is abundant. There are at least 3 million burros in Mexico! In fact, the term burro actually means donkey in Spanish.

Burros tend to be smaller than the average donkey found in America.

In an effort to strengthen the burro size, 11 donkeys from Kentucky were brought to Jalisco, Mexico in the year 2005.

Maltese Donkey

Originating From:  Malta
Height Range: 
 56-59 inches
Black, brown, or red  
 Hardy, hyperactive, and spunky

Maltese donkeys were brought to America and were instrumental in the establishment of the American mammoth donkey.

They were used in their prime as draft, pack and transport animals as well as for their meat.

Maltese donkeys tend to have glossy, dark colored coats with white noses.

This type of donkey is quickly disappearing, and only around 50 true Maltese donkeys still exist today.

Final Thoughts

It is difficult to fathom all the different kinds of donkeys that exist in the world today.

Although only a few hundred of specific types of donkeys are around today, it is estimated that over 40 million donkeys are living in the across the globe.

Many undeveloped countries used them as work animals, but donkeys also make excellent companion animals.

They are great additions to most farms because they will protect livestock by defending against predators that dare to venture into their pasture.