Ass is the correct name for members of Equus asinus, just as horse is the correct name for Equus cabal/us. However, the ass is more commonly called a donkey in North America. The name donkey comes from the old English word dunkey meaning an animal that is greyish-brown in color. Burro, the Spanish word for ass, usually refers to the feral donkeys that roam wild in various parts of North and South America.
According to Anthony Dent “there is no breed of ass that can be regarded as a specific and original American development. .. “For the most part it would appear that donkeys were brought to South America and Mexico by the Spanish Conquistadores in the 16 th century and have since slowly moved northward. The one exception may be American Mammoth jackstock, which was developed in the 18 the century from large imported European asses of Catalonian, Maltese and Poitou types.
A male donkey is called a jack. A female donkey is a jennet (sometimes written as jenny, but both pronounced the same). Castrated male donkeys are donkey geldings. Young donkeys are called jack foals or jennet foals.
The equine species can interbreed and will produce hybrid offspring that are usually infertile. The most common hybrids are the mule and hinny which are produced by the following combinations:
|Sire||X Dam||= Foal|
|Stallion (Horse)||X Jennet (Donkey)||= Hinny|
|Jack (Donkey)||X Mare (Horse)||= Mule|
In Canada donkeys can be reigstered with the Canadian Donkey and Mule Association, and organization founded in 1976 and incorporated in 1988 under the Animal Pedigree Act (1988).
Because there are no specific North American donkey breeds, the Canadian Donkey and Mule Association recognizes the height classification given to donkeys in the United States. The donkey sizes recognized in Canada for registration purposes are:
- Miniature: under 36 inches high at the withers when mature.
- Small Standard: from 36.01 to 48 inches.
- Large Standard: over 48 inches and under 54 inches for jennets; over 48 inches and under 56 inches for jacks and geldings.
- Mammoth: 54 inches or over for jennets; 56 inches or over for jacks and geldings.
Conformation of Miniature, Small and Large Standard Donkeys
Before breeding quality donkeys (Jacks and jennets) are accepted into the stud book of the Canadian Donkey and Mule Associatioh, they must be inspected once they reach four years of age.
Regardless of whether a donkey is selected for breeding, show or work purposes, a quality animal should have proper proportions and conformation. For centuries, donkeys were and still are work animals in many parts of the world. The conformation of donkeys therefore must be appropriate to, that of working animals.