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Many people continue to misunderstand the terminology associated with the donkey. The word “donkey” is derived from the English word “dun” meaning gray and “ky” meaning small. The word donkey has been around for hundreds of years and had become a term used to describe all members of the genus: Equus Africanus Asinus.
The Spanish word “burro” is derived from the Latin word “Burrisimo” meaning little horse. Burro is to donkey as amigo is to friend. Both words have the same meaning.
In the United States, we use the terms to differentiate between the domesticated donkey and the wild free-ranging burros. Therefore, a burro is wild and a donkey is domesticated. As they are from the same common stock, there are no physical differences between the two. Wild burros in an area will share a common look, largely due to the fact that the gene pool that initially started the herd was small.
A mule is an entirely different animal. A mule is a sterile hybrid resulting from the mating of a jack, or male donkey, to a mare, a female horse. With an extremely rare exception, mules are sterile and cannot typically reproduce. A mule possesses the size, strength and work ethic of a horse while getting the intelligence, sure footedness and compassion of a donkey.
A hinny is the cross of a stallion, a male horse, and a jennet, a female donkey and are less common.
Donkeys are classified by size into three groups:
Miniature 35” or less
Standard 36” to 55”
Mammoth 56” or above
Measured to the withers (shoulders)
*Size and categories are defined by individual organizations and may vary
Donkeys range in many colors including:
And a mottled “salt & pepper” called blue
Most donkeys bear a cross on their backs. And some have zebra type stripes on their legs.