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An introduction to donkwys and their terminology

Donkeys and horses
  • A donkey is not a horse!
  • The donkey is more related to the zebra, and you can see this in its shape and movement.
  • There are a wide range of about 300 breeds of donkey in the world.  The largest is the Spanish Catalonian donkey which is 17 hands high (hh).  A hand is 4 inches or 100mm. The Poitou is about 16hh.
  • The donkey has 62 chromosomes and the horse has 64, so in theory they are genetically incompatible. 
  • Donkeys have been crossed with zebras to produce a “Zeedonk”.  These are sterile hybrids.
  • Donkeys and horses are crossed to produce the mule (male donkey Jack on mare) and the hinny (horse stallion on donkey Jenny).  The results of these matings are sterile hybrids and have 63 chromosomes.  But there are exceptions as some female mules will breed.
  • Most donkeys and many mules lack the obvious saddle-holding withers of the horse.
  • The donkey’s main and tail hair is stiff.  It has no true forelock and the tail has short hair to switch more like a cow than a horse.
  • The croup muscles of the donkey are usually less developed than the horse.
  • Hooves of donkeys and mules are smaller than equal-sized horses and the pastern angle is greater.
  • Donkeys have no chestnuts on their rear legs.
  • Donkeys have slightly different larynx anatomy, and have smaller nostrils and nasal passages than equal sized horses.
  • Donkey - common name for the ass family.
  • Jack, jackass, jack ass - intact male of the ass family.
  • Jenny, jennet - female of the ass family.
  • Burro - the smaller members of the ass family usually of Mexican or Spanish stock.
  • Gelding or gelded jack - castrated male of the ass family.
  • Mule - hybrid cross from breeding a jack to a mare.
  • Hinny – hybrid cross from breeding a stallion to a jenny.
  • Mare mule or Molly – female mule.
  • Horse mule or John mule – male mule.
  • Mare hinny – female hinny.
  • Horse hinny – male hinny.
  • Mule mare – mare used to raise mules.
  • Miniature donkey – at maturity stands 36 inches or less at the withers.
  • Standard donkey – at maturity stands more than 36 inches but less than 56 inches at he withers.
  • Mammoth donkey – at maturity stands more than 56 inches at the withers.

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