Miniature Donkeys – History and Care

A miniature donkey is not bred down from Standard Donkeys, but actually comes from the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. They were first brought to the US by Robert Green in 1929. However, it is no longer possible to bring these donkeys into the US from the Mediterranean Islands. This makes these sweet, little donkeys very limited in number in the US.

Basic miniature information

Miniatures have a sweet nature (see exceptions under jacks) and are very social. Most love being around people. They love being brushed and petted. They average 32-35” at the withers (just above the shoulders). For American registry and to be eligible to be shown, they must not exceed 36” in height.

They are long lived. It is not uncommon for a mini with good care to live over 20 years, and there have been reports of minis living over 30 years.

The traditional miniature donkey is a grey-dun color, with a “cross” over the withers and down the shoulders, and with lighter color on their muzzle, around their eyes, and belly. There are now miniature donkeys in a variety of colors – darker and lighter browns, sorrels (red), grays, and black. They can also be spotted – grey and white, black and white, brown and white. There are also miniatures that do not have the lighter muzzle and belly.

The jennets (females) are pregnant from 11-13 months. The foal (baby) averages 25 pounds and are weaned at 5 to 6 months of age. An adult miniature can weigh anywhere from 200 to 350 pounds.

Donkeys are herd animals. They NEED a companion. Best is another donkey, but sometimes a horse or goat can be a good friend. A donkey by itself is a very sad and lonely donkey. Two geldings can be great friends and great fun to watch.

Jacks – Jacks (intact males) are NOT pets. They can be very aggressive to other jacks and difficult to handle when jennets are around. It is common for people just starting out to ask about buying one jack and one jennet – that is very frustrating for the jack (think one stallion and one mare), and can create problems when it is time for the jennet to foal. Although they can be fertile before they are a year old, they are not physically mature for breeding purposes until they are 2-3 years old.

Jennets – Jennets can get pregnant as early as 9 months, but are not physically and emotionally mature enough to carry a foal until they are 3 years old.

Guard Donkeys – Miniature donkeys are NOT guard animals. They are protective of their family, but they are just too little to take on a group of dogs or coyotes.

Dogs – As a general rule, miniature donkeys do not like dogs. Our donkeys have been raised around our dogs (in fact Charity is best buddies with our dog Pepper), but they may not tolerate dogs they don’t know.

What can you do with miniature donkeys?

All sorts of things! They make fun pets – very loveable and playful. They can be trained to pull a cart or saddled for a small child to ride. They can be shown – there are all sorts of events – halter classes, showmanship, jumping, trail, cart, etc… They have been used as therapy pets (for visiting retirement or rehabilitation facilities) and can be seen in parades. Eric’s donkey, Beau Dunk will come in and out of his house (he is housebroken); and plays with his dogs.

Care of Miniature Donkeys:

Miniature Donkeys are a hardy breed. However, there are some basics that they will need to stay healthy.

Feed – Donkeys need fresh, clean water at all times. There have been reports of minis dying of thirst rather than drinking dirty or fouled water. Shaded water helps prevent algae growth. Good, horse quality hay, access to a horse (NOT COW) mineral block, and a little grain rounds out their feeding needs.

Shelter – Donkeys need shelter to protect them from bad weather (heat, rain, snow, cold winds). A three sided shelter with the back to the north can be used, but must be large enough for the donkeys to get in and be protected from sun/rain in the summer and snow and cold winds in the winter. Protection from flies is also important.
You want to have plenty of room for running and playing. A pasture for grazing is also a plus. Fencing does not need to be over 4 feet tall. Cattle panels or other woven wire works well.

Medical care – Minis are very “easy keepers” but do need some preventive care to insure their overall health. Annual vaccinations are needed. Their hooves require trimming about 3 to 4 times a year, and they need deworming about 4 times a year (see your veterinarian in your area to determine what vaccinations/dewormers are best).