Miniature Donkeys Gain Popularity

Admirable traits of miniature donkeys make them a popular addition to any homestead.

| July/August 2009

  • Diminutive donkeys
    These hardy pets can live on just a handful of feed and survive up to 35 years or more.
    Shutterstock/Condor 36
  • Foraging minis
    No matter their size, donkeys are always looking for the best blades of grass.
    Shutterstock/Condor 36
  • Contemplating the next move
    Facing off with a ball, this miniature donkey contemplates its next move.
    Shutterstock/Condor 36

  • Diminutive donkeys
  • Foraging minis
  • Contemplating the next move

Imagine a miniature donkey, with the characteristics of a loving, playful puppy, coupled with the ability to pull a cart or let children ride around on its back. Better yet, what if this hardy pet could live on just a handful of feed and survive up to 35 years or more, meaning that your children and your grandchildren might enjoy its company? With all of these admirable traits, it’s no wonder that miniature donkeys are steadily gaining popularity.

Miniature donkeys have a long history far removed from their current status as pets and show animals. They originated in the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia and are still sometimes referred to as miniature Mediterranean donkeys or Sardinian donkeys. Early on, they were strictly beasts of burden, hauling supplies into the mountains and shuffling in endless circles to power grindstones. 

Taking stock

The first “dinky donkeys” were brought to the United States in the 1920s by New York stockbroker Robert Green, who admired their intelligence, durability and affectionate nature. Importation continued until the 1960s, when the population was well established, and now there are around 50,000 miniature donkeys in the United States.

The original imports ranged from 32 to 38 inches in height (at the withers), while today’s version typically measures between 31 and 35 inches and weighs between 250 and 350 pounds. An ideal miniature donkey should have the same conformation as its full-size counterparts.



Today’s little donkeys have a much easier life than their ancestors. Most are purchased as pets, since their love of attention makes them ideal companions. Like dogs, they seek out human contact and soak up affection, and they are fast learners. Children can brush, play with, and ride (depending on their size minis may carry up to 100 pounds) the durable little creatures all day.

In addition to working under saddle, miniature donkeys can also be trained to perform on a lead line and pull a cart. On an active show circuit, well-bred animals compete in conformation, lead line and driving classes.

Deb_1
8/1/2009 1:00:43 PM

What a wonderful and helpful sight. I'm writing a novel for chidren and needed to gather information on Miniature Donkeys. In the process, this has pricked my interest of someday owning one! Thanks for the article! Deb







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