Ever Wondered About the Difference Between a Donkey and a Burro?

by barbarab

While looking at photos on RedGage I found an excellent photo of a donkey. Or was it a burro?

Donkey or Burro?

Where did it all begin?

Perusing the sites I love the most

I came across an adorable picture

It brought memories and smells to mind

It made me wonder

What are the differences after all?

Let's Trace It Back


Horses and Donkeys originated at the same time; probably 3000 B.C. and came from Africa into Spain and Europe. From Spain, the Donkey came to North America and Mexico. A Donkey and a Burro are really the same animal but a Mule is not the same as a Donkey. A Donkey is a species all to itself and has a sub-species of minature, mediterranean, standard and mammouth. A mule is an animal that man made by breeding a female horse to a male donkey and is sterile.

Thedifferent types of Donkeys are based on height. The Mammouth is the largest and is 54 to 56 inches at the withers or shoulders. A Large Standard Donkey is also the same size in inches but Large Standards are males, otherwise known as Jackstock. The Standard Donkey is 48 to 54 inches at its withers and the Minature Donkey is 36 inches and shorter. The Mediterranean Donkey comes between the Minature and the Standard and stands 36 to 48 inches in height.

There are 185 different breeds of Donkeys in the world today. The country with the largest population of Donkeys is China and Mexico is the fourth. In the United States the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) handles the majority of the Burro population. Most of the time when people speak of a Donkey they are speaking of a domesticated Burro. A Burro is usually considered to be a wild Donkey. It seems strange to use two words to describe the same animal. In the Southwest and  Mexico, however, the term Burro is used in the vernacular and refers to both Donkey and Burro.

Did you know there are 185 different species of Donkey?

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China has over 11 million donkeys today.

Do You Want A Burro of Your Own?

Better be ready; a burro is not easily led.

People have always maligned the poor Donkey. A Donkey is stubborn, a Donkey will kick and bite, a Donkey will never be truly tamed. However, the poor Donkey has been with mankind since Biblical times and is mentioned in many different religious and secular texts. In the western Bible alone there are 68 references to the Donkey. The Hindu's believe that the Donkey was the way the God Vahana arrived on Earth. Muhammed of the religion of Islam warned that if a Donkey crossed in front of anyone while they were praying it was a sign of the Devil. In Pinnochio the puppet boy is turned into a donkey for a while because of his poor behaviour. Perhaps the best known reference to a Donkey in the western civilization is of Mary riding a Donkey into Bethlehem and then of Jesus riding a Donkey into Jerusleum.

There are different stories concerning where the Donkey got the distinctive cross on its back. If you look at a Donkey as if you are above it and looking straight down at its back you will see a stripe of black across its withers that extends down its front legs and then a black stripe straight down its vertebrae. This is called the Donkeys' Cross and even if the colour of the Donkey is black, that cross is inherant to its makeup. It is in the Donkey's chromsomes and will show up in its offspring. One story about the Donkey's cross is that the Donkey stayed with Jesus right up to the crucifixion and stood in the shadow of Jesus' cross. The shadow made a tattoo of sorts across the brave Donkeys back. The more popular story is where a Donkey carried Jesus into Jerusalem so where Jesus sat on the donkeys' back the pressure made a cross. The story goes on to say that the black stripes on the Donkey's legs were made from the palm fronds the Donkey walked on going into the city. However, as the Donkey has been in existence since 3000 B.C. neither tale carries much weight; which is itself a play on words.

As to the belief that a Donkey is stubborn, this comes about from the temperament of the Burro. It is used to being preyed upon and its natural defense is to take everything very cautiously. A Donkey will not do anything unless it wants to. It is up to its human companion then, to find a way to encourage the Donkey to want to do things for its human. A Donkey is the guard of its environment and will protect its humans and animals. A Donkey does not make a good companion for a dog, unless they have been raised together. Perhaps this is due to the behaviour of both dog and donkey. Both of these animals are part of a pack and are natural rivals. At the same time, a lone Donkey will become depressed if it is the only animal and while other farmyard animals can help, the Donkey really needs another Donkey to boost it's mood and keep it healthy.

Where Do You Adopt a Burro?

The BLM is the first agency to contact if you are looking for a Burro of your own. Every state has its own BLM but there are more Burros in the western part of the United States than in other parts of the country. Nevada and California, specifically, have a large population of Burros on BLM land.

Of course it is important to research any animal thoroughly before adopting and this is especially true for a Burro. You will need three acres minimum for one Burro then one extra acre for every Burro after that. The Burro is used to desert terrain and does not do well if it is given rich feed. Overfeeding or giving it feed that it is not used to will create health problems. A Burros hooves are shaped differently than a horse and must be maintained regularly by an experienced farrier. A Burro must have adequate shelter as changes in temperature also affect the Burros health.

There are many resources available on the internet if you feel your life will be enriched by adoptng a Burro. One very famous Burro whose name was "The Famous Aerial" was responsible for making people aware of the wonderful characteristics of this animal. His story and many others can be found on Nancy Kerson's website, Mustangs4Us, which also has information on wild horses for adoption.

Whether it is decided to adopt a Burro or to take a trip and see the wild Burros on protected land, you will have a wonderful adventure. Your trip will provide you with a new sense of joy and wonder from being around this wonderful animal, the Burro!

Updated: 08/09/2011, barbarab
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barbarab on 09/02/2012

You are so lucky to live close to them so you can get first hand knowledge! I think it would be so great to have enoubgh land to own a burro and horses too of course but a burro is my fav!

Ragtimelil on 09/02/2012

Donkeys make good guard animals for sheep. I have one living around the corner from me. She's a cutie.

barbarab on 01/01/2012

and with a Burro you are less likely to get "et" while checking out the differences!! :) ok lay your head down...you started your New Years and then into a couple of hours of it didnt you?

bayouladyJDKimball on 01/01/2012

Hummmmmmm..That's way cool! I guess its kind of like gators and crocs here in Louisiana. .....hard to tell from a distance. I think I'll read this again when I'm not so blurry-eyed sleepy!

barbarab on 08/09/2011

I think Joey loves you so much he would carry your pack for you!
goodness that is one handsome dog! Don't tell him though! Give him a big head :)
I loved his story!!
wish you would write one for this site!
"Joey's Days of Summer. A Never Tranquil Repose!"
there you go a winning title if I do say so!

SidewalkPhilosopher on 08/09/2011

Well, I have a dog that is almost as large as a Burro/Donkey but that is about as close as I have ever come to owning one. Whenever I think of a Burro/Donkey, I think of Jesus riding into Jerusalem and then the song, The Holy City comes to mind. I grew up in the city...can you tell? LOL Enjoyed the article.

barbarab on 08/09/2011

hello Kajohu!! you lucky duck! what a wonderful memory for you!! I was just reading on RedGage and came across the picture of a Burro then I went and found wild mustang4U site and got hooked!! I think I would like a standard Burro/Donkey..one that can handle a pack...but its a moot point as hubby has vetoed the entire idea :(
so I will content myself with pictures!
thank you so much for the comment! my first here!!

kajohu on 08/08/2011

I guess I didn't know that donkeys and burros were the same thing! This article brings back some fun memories of when I was a child visiting my best friend's grandparents cabin. They owned about a dozen burros, and we got to help feed them and let them out of their pen in the morning.

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