“Miniature Donkeys possess the affectionate nature of a Newfoundland, the resignation of a cow, the durability of a mule, the courage of a tiger, and an intellectual capacity only slightly inferior to man’s.” – Robert Green, American’s first breeder of Miniature Donkeys
The Mediterranean Miniature Donkey originated in Italy and is considered a rare heritage breed (having been listed by The American Rare Breeds Conservancy as ‘recovering’ in terms of current population numbers). Miniature donkeys range from 26″ to 36″ tall (at the withers). It’s been said that you ‘tell a horse but you ask a donkey.’ Donkeys, it turns out, are not stubborn: they are intelligent, skilled at self-preservation and thus cautious, playful, loyal, funny, long-lived and affectionate. There is something very zen, in the popular definition of zen, about donkeys. Their mere presence, I find, invites you to relax and to slow down. Miniature Donkeys are great pets, wonderful 4-H animals and beneficial therapy animals for equine therapy. There is a robust national show community for Miniature Donkeys. Homesteading blogger Tara Dodrill writes, “…for homesteading families a new livestock favorite is now emerging across the United States – the mini donkey. Miniature donkeys are not only as lovable as a new puppy, they can pull a cart and perhaps most importantly, keep a deadly predator away from your other livestock, too. The mini donkeys instinctively behave in an aggressive manner towards predators. Although they do not have the size nor the teeth to kill a large predator or fend off attacks against multiple coyotes, they definitely serve as a great deterrent and alert the livestock guardian dogs on the homestead that danger has arrived and their services are needed to finish off any intruder that did not heed their warning.”
The Donkey Companion manual says of them, ‘There is a lot to like about Miniature Donkeys. They’re large enough for tiny tots to ride and to pull a cart carrying an adult and one or two children; they’re easygoing and gentle to a fault; they’re economical to keep and feed; and they’re arguably the cutest creatures on God’s green earth.” Agreed.I have five gorgeous, gentle high-end Miniature Donkeys: a jack, his gelding buddy and three jennets. They are all registered and have impressive lineages. Each donkey was carefully selected as a ‘breeding quality’ animal and is a candidate for a herd sire or a breeding jennet. These handsome guys are Prodigy (right, nickname Leonard) and Jerico (left, nickname Wendell). Leonard is a jack and has all of the notable qualifications of a herd sire. He is a classic mini with a stocky, drafty build. Besides his gorgeous physique, Leonard has a very unusual and highly desirable temperament for a jack – easygoing, gentle, friendly – a true gentleman jack. He turned 4 years old in the fall of 2017 and thus has a long and bountiful potential future as a herd sire (Miniature Donkeys have an average life span of 25 to 35 years but have been known to live significantly longer) . Wendell is a dear; a bit shy, very sweet and he keeps Leonard in line. Because donkeys are deeply social animals, jacks raised without gelding companions tend to live much diminished lives as well as developing temperament issues. Wendell and Leonard have been buddies all of their lives – they eat together, they play, they tussle wildly, they groom one another, they are basically inseparable. Poppy is a beautiful, elegant, long-legged, spotted jennet. She is intelligent, patient and well-rounded. She turned four in the Fall of 2017, so she is able to be bred at any time. Poppy is now a beloved therapy donkey at wonderful Eagle Mount in Bozeman, Montana. MoMo, also a jennet, turned two in March of 2018 and she is coming into her own in terms of her stature and temperament. In the summer she has a lovely, shiny mahogany brown coat. MoMo is still a little shy but she is a real love bug once she gets to know you. I spend a fair amount of time kissing her velvety muzzle and receiving little nuzzles in return. She will be ready to breed, if desired, in one to two years. The recommended breeding age for Miniature Donkeys is between three and four years old; I believe the later age is preferable for all-around maturation. Donkeys live long lives, there’s no rush. Soleil, one year old in the fall of 2017, is already a full-blown character. She is feisty, fiery, funny, adorable and full of joie de vivre. She moves like a little tank – resolute, fearless. When she matures, she’ll surely be the matriarch of her herd. Soleil is a lovely light red with prominent white markings. Donkeys are highly social animals, their well-being necessitates that they be bonded with other animals. Another donkey is preferable but donkeys can create close kinships with other animals, preferably other equines.