Members of the Asinus genus of the equidae family, Donkeys got the short straw and the big ears of the family.
There is a variety of domestic donkey breeds & bloodlines range based on local needs, local terrain and the need for stronger & more robust animals.
Definitely the worker bee of the species, most donkeys have it pretty hard. Throughout history they have been bred as work animals, their genetic history shaped by the needs of mankind.
Here is a look at some of the different breeds of donkey. Like horse breeds, info is limited and inconsistent so this is a basic overview of the main breeds I could find.
Still common as work animals and found throughout Ethiopia and are usually slate-grey but can be found in chestnut brown.
The Spanish Military used them for stud and kept their bloodlines relatively pure over the years. Since the end of Franco’s reign, need for a quality donkey has declined and their numbers followed.
This species is endangered and threatened with extinction.
It’s roots have been traced back to Somalia but the Catalan Donkey has been adopted as the symbol of the Catalan people (perhaps in defiance of the Spanish national bull). Their numbers became critically low late in the 20th century, but breeding programs have saved them from extinction.
This donkey comes from Lower-Normandie and was once used to transport cows milk. Due to modernization of agriculture in the mid 20th century their numbers dwindled. Thanks to modern appreciation for the bloodlines & the creation of a breed registry in 1997 their numbers continue to grow.
The American Mammoth Donkey is the world’s largest breed of ass and was created through combining a variety of older bloodlines. The result was a larger, stronger animal capable of shouldering bigger workloads.
These tiny animals come from the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia & Sicily and were used to turn grinding stones inside peasant houses & for carrying water. Almost extinct in their homeland, the Americans have taken a liking to them as pets and helped to keep the breed alive.
The Parlag is a Hungarian donkey that came to them via the Celts and Romans had a hand in shaping their lines. Like most of their brothers the lack of need was a determining factor in the decline of their numbers. Today their lines are kept alive by hobby breeders in central Hungary.
Thought to have been introduced to the Poitou region of France by the Romans, this Donkey is specifically used to create mules. These are mighty, robust animals and possess a thick, woolen brown coat.
Another Spanish donkey, the Zamorano-Leones donkey was bred to be robust for traveling and trade & later used to create large work mules. Their range has dwindled due to lack of necessity and they can now be found only in the Zamora and Leon provinces.
If you know more about donkeys than I do, I’d love to learn more. That said, I hope you’ll speak up and teach me a thing or two.