|Miniature Donkey Information|
|Personality and Cost|
|Reproduction and Health|
Miniature donkeys are native to the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia. It is difficult to import them now because 1) the quality of donkey left in Sicily and Sardinia is not good, and, 2) it is very difficult to pass the tests given by quarantine stations at the Dept. of Agriculture. Miniature Donkeys have not been bred down in size per se. The 25-30 Miniature Donkeys originally imported into the U.S. was between the sizes of 32" and 38" with the majority of them being in the 35"-37" size range. Over the years, breeders have concentrated more on the 32"-33" size and today your most desirable and well-conformed donkeys are from 31" to 35". The word "miniature" usually connotes animals that have been bred-down in size, so keep in mind that 'miniature donkeys' are simply diminutive and not bred down such is the case of many other 'miniature' animals.
The most prevalent color for Miniature Donkeys is gray-dun which consists of a gray colored body, light colored nose - or dark colored nose -, light colored belly and inside legs, with a dark color dorsal stripe down the back and over the shoulders. The dorsal stripe is known as the donkeys cross. There are variations of this gray-dun from dark to light. As with most animals, donkeys can range in color from black to white and everything in between. True blacks are extremely rare with black/browns (not quite black) being more common. There are chestnut/sorrels, which are various shades of reddish brown. There are also white donkeys and "spotted" donkeys. Some people refer to spotted as "pinto" and this really boils down to semantics. Spotted or pintos are generally gray or brown and white. There are also various colors of roans. Roan coloring is black, brown, gray hairs intermingled with white hairs. Donkeys do not breed true to color. Since gray-dun is by far the predominant gene, you can breed black to black and get gray-dun, spotted to spotted and get gray-dun, etc. Never knowing what color foal will be produced is part of the excitement of having foals. Colors other than the typical gray-dun make the donkey more exotic looking therefore increases their price.
Donkeys can survive on good quality hay alone. A good hay to feed donkeys is a mixture of alfalfa and grass. Pure alfalfa is too rich a feed for Miniature Donkeys and does not set well with their digestive systems. They can also become extremely fat. With severe droughts often occurring in different parts of the country, sometimes only poor quality hay is available and in this case, donkeys should be supplemented with a 10-12% protein equine sweet feed. Donkeys are termed as "easy keepers" meaning they utilize their feed very efficiently and you must be careful that they do not get fat. Fat donkeys will develop a "crest" - or fat roll - on their necks that will be there for life once it develops.
Limited acreage can go hand in hand with Miniature Donkeys. You could easily keep 10 donkeys on an acre of land. This however doesn't mean they could live off pasture grasses. It does mean they could live comfortably being fed hay year round. You basically need a pasture large enough for them to run and play in to receive enough exercise for them to remain healthy.
Donkeys communicate with their human owners and with other donkeys by "braying", also more commonly known as a hee-haw. Every donkey has his or her own style of braying with some sounding quite comical. They range from barely being audible to a loud thunderous bray. Donkeys develop schedules and if you are late in feeding, you will hear about it! Jacks pastured apart from their jennets will call to them several times a day. On the whole, donkeys are very quiet animals.
The first and foremost attraction to Miniature Donkeys is their loving personalities. They demand attention! They form close attachments to their owners and to other donkeys. Donkeys are herd animals and one lone donkey is a very lonely donkey. Because of their laid-back, easygoing personalities, they make wonderful pets for children, the handicapped, and the elderly. I do not recommend that you buy an ungelded adult jack as a pet. Even though the donkey's nature is to be much less nervous and tense than an ungelded horse, you cannot remove his basic instincts. You can buy an ungelded jack foal and at approximately one year of age, have him gelded making him safe around seniors and children.
Prices on donkeys vary greatly depending on the region of the country and the quality of the animal. Pet jacks are the most economical in the $300 to $600 ranges. (Please note: Your $300 price range is the lower end of the scale and a typical jack in this price range would be: A yearling, may or may not be friendly, gray in color and usually will mature on the tall end of 35" to 38".) The next step up would be a breeder quality jack, weanling or adult, any color, friendly with nice conformation and will run in the neighborhood of $700 to $1,200. Top quality jacks and jennets can run upwards from there.
Miniature Donkeys are very healthy animals. They require the same yearly vaccinations as equine. They should also be dewormed, with an equine dewormer, at a minimum of three times per year, preferably six times per year. They require the same hoof care as equine and should be trimmed at least three or four times per year.
Jennets can become fertile at one year of age but if bred, make very poor mothers and usually reject their foals. Jennets can be considered for breeding after the age of two or 2-1/2 years depending on their overall physical and mental maturity. Miniature Donkeys, on average, carry a foal for 12 months. Average Gestation: 11 months, 3 weeks, 5 days. (Unlike other animals, donkeys can carry their foals from 11 months to 13 months.) Most are not bred again until their second heat cycle, some 30 odd days after foaling. Some jennets will not conceive until their foal is weaned. Taking all into consideration, the average jennet produces one offspring every 13 to 14 months.
Jacks (males) can be fertile at one year of age but generally wait until 16 to 18 months. The famed herd sire "Charlie Bandito" owned by Pheasant Meadow Farm in Maryland produced his first offspring at the age of 12 months and his first son, "Guido Bandito" produced his first offspring at the age of 12-1/2 months. Some smaller sized jacks - 31" and under - may not show an interest in breeding until they are two years old. Jacks inherit much of their overall fertility and libido from their sires. Twinning in Miniature Donkeys is rare. Birth weights are generally between 18 and 25 pounds. Jennets between the size of 33" and 38" usually have an easy time foaling. Smaller jennets may need human intervention.