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About Donkeys

The most frequently asked question is, "But what do you do with them?"

Robert Green first imported miniature donkeys in 1929 to the United States from the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia where they were used as work animals (Gross 9). One of the largest original breeders of miniature donkeys in the United States was August Busch of Busch Beer. He liked to give away the donkeys as gifts to his friends (Gross 9).

The average life span of a miniature donkey is from 25 to 45 years. This is one reason why they make excellent pets, they can last a lifetime! The average gestational period for miniature donkeys is around 12 months. Miniature donkeys typically weigh between 18 to 25 pounds at birth and are usually on their feet within 30 minutes. A mature miniature donkey will weigh between 200 to 450 pounds. The height of a miniature donkey is 36 inches and under. Male donkeys are called jacks. Geldings are male donkeys that have been castrated. Female donkeys are officially called jennets but are affectionately called "jennys". Baby donkeys are called foals and are the cutest things around. Foals are usually weaned at four to six months of age.

Miniature donkeys come in many colors. The most common and predominant color is gray-dun. Donkeys can be completely black, white, spotted or dark brown. Sorrels are various shades of reddish brown. Donkeys do not breed true to color. This is part of the excitement of having foals; the color is always a surprise.

Miniature donkeys are very low maintenance animals as they are very hardy and healthy. They like to graze on grass all day long. This grazing can be supplemented with a good quality of hay that is a mixture of grass and a little alfalfa. During the winter or when grass in not available, their diet can be supplemented with a 10% to 12% protein horse feed and/or oats. Adult donkeys utilize their feed efficiently and will get a fat roll on their neck if fed too much. Miniature donkeys should be provided with a good source of clean water, as they will refuse to drink stale or dirty water.

A shelter should be provided for donkeys. They do not like to be out in the rain, snow, and wind. They should have some place to get out of the hot sun. But miniature donkeys should not be locked in a barn all day, as they need fresh air and exercise. Miniature donkeys like to have a buddy and cannot be pastured alone. They just will not thrive as donkeys are very sociable and herd-oriented animals.

Miniature donkeys should be vaccinated on a yearly basis. Donkeys should be wormed every three to four months. Miniature donkeys require very little grooming. They grow a heavy coat in the winter that they will shed in the spring. Donkeys may be clipped to help the shedding process. The hooves of a miniature donkey must be trimmed two to four times a year to keep the hoof in good condition.

Now back to the original question of "But what do you do with them?" Miniature donkeys can be a good business investment. With the right breeding practices and business management, donkeys can provide a good retirement or second income. A lot of emphasis is placed on color. Sorrel, black, and spotted donkeys are very popular and can bring a very good price.

Miniature donkeys are often taken to nursing homes, schools, camps, and used in nativity scenes. The peaceful and affectionate nature of the donkey makes this possible. The elderly and children especially love this animal that seldom bites or kicks.

Another fascinating aspect of the donkey is The Legend of the Donkey Cross: "Bring me the colt of a donkey," was the Master's request. A young donkey was brought to Jesus to carry him to Jerusalem. A week later Jesus was ordered crucified. The little donkey so loved the Lord, that he wanted to help carry the cross. But alas, he was pushed away. The sad little donkey waited to say good-bye until nearly all had left. As he turned to leave, the shadow of the cross fell upon his shoulders. And there it has remained, a tribute to the loyalty and love of the humblest of God's Creatures. (Singer)

Works Cited Singer, Mary. "Legend of the Donkey's Cross." 20 Jul. 2002 .

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