The donkeys are members of the horse
family (Equidae). Like other equids, they are
fast runners adapted for life on open grasslands
and deserts. Their posture is unguligrade, meaning
that they run on the tips of their toes. Their legs
are long and adapted for speed. Each foot has only
one toe-the hoof-another adaptation for speed.
Equids are grazers and sometimes browsers.
Asses especially will browse.
The donkey or domestic ass is descended fromthe African wild ass. Donkeys first appeared on wall paintings and in burials six thousand years ago in Egypt and western Asia. They have been used widely by farmers and traders as pack animals and to pull wheeled vehicles. Donkeys have been bred to be smaller than their ancestor, the African wild ass. The goal was to produce a thrifty animal that gave the greatest amount of work for the least amount of feed. Being descended from a desert animal, donkeys are better suited to the Mediterranean climate than to northern Europe. Donkeys were introduced to China in the third century b.c.e. Donkeys were brought to the Americas by the Spanish, who call them "burros", beginning in the seventeenth century. It is possible, but awkward, to ride a donkey. Because of the animal's low withers, a human rider must sit far back in the donkey seat to avoid sliding forward. This produces a bumpy ride and has precluded the donkey's use as a mount in hunting or battle.
Family: Equidae (horses)
Genus and species: Equus asinus (donkeys or domestic asses)
Geographical location: The domestic donkey is descended from the wild ass of the hot deserts of Africa and Arabia
Habitat: Donkeys are well-adapted to hot, dry deserts, yet selective breeding has produced donkeys that thrive in the damp climate of Ireland
Gestational period: 11.5 months
Life span: Twenty to twenty-five years on average
Special anatomy: Long ears dissipate heat; broad single toe (hoof) on each foot is an adaptation for running; capable of digesting large quantities of low-protein fodder
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