Donkeys were domesticated from the African wild ass around 4000BCE by Egyptian and Nubian civilisations. They were originally domesticated for use as a pack animal as they are able to carry 20-30% of their body weight. By the early 20th century donkeys had spread worldwide mainly as working animals. Pet donkeys increased in popularity when the miniature donkey was imported into USA in 1929 from Sardinia and Sicily where the breed originates.
Miniature donkeys are social animals so it is necessary to keep them in groups of two or more. They require a shelter with at least three enclosed sides to escape bad weather during the day. It is advised that they are taken into stables at night especially in winter. Foals are born after a 11-13 month gestation and can walk and suckle at just two hours old.
Miniature donkeys are grazing animals. The semi-arid conditions of their wild ancestor meant that they have evolved to survive on low fibre, tough, plants. This can be a problem for domesticated donkeys who are often fed a higher fibre diet often leading to obesity. They can survive on a diet of straw with occasional hay and fruit/vegetable treats.
The wild ancestor of the donkey, the African wild ass, is classified as Critically Endangered. They are threatened from hunting for meat and for medicinal purposes. Their bones are used in soups to treat tuberculosis, rheumatism and body aches. Competition with livestock is causing a decline in available water and forage sites, which is particularly a problem for mothers with foals under three months old.