Donkeys and mules

People keep donkeys around the world. This relationship’s here to stay. Donkeys have been living alongside humans since about the time that we started to build houses, and many of us still keep donkeys, because donkeys are useful.

Donkeys are useful for riding, for pulling things and for carrying things. They’re very appealing too, making good pets if you have enough land, feed and shelter for them.

The donkey (Equus asinus) was domesticated about six thousand years ago. But it wasn’t by any means the first animal we humans took into our lives. Before our ancestors bred E. asinus from the wild African ass (Equus africanus) (scroll down for the family tree), humans were nomadic. Of course some people still are nomadic but by now, most of us live in buildings. It’s easy to trace the change from nomadic life to settled, agricultural life by looking at which species lived alongside humans at which times in history (scroll down for the list of dates).

Donkeys are also called asses but where I’m from, we call a donkey a donkey. These animals appear in legends including Christian legends like this and this which led me to write about this species at this time of year.

In many places for real, donkeys earn their keep by working in the fields and on the roads. Here in Britain the Donkey Breed Society promotes donkey breeding and donkey care.

Have you seen donkeys being mistreated? I certainly have. That’s why the Donkey Sanctuary and the Brooke work around the world to improve the welfare of working donkeys, horses and mules.

Here’s a blog about the health and care of donkeys, horses and mules. Mules are out of fashion in Britain now, but people still breed and care for them. Here’s a blog about mules in Britain. I don’t know whether it’s true that a mule kicks like a mule and I don’t intend to find out the hard way.

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About argylesock

I wrote a PhD about veterinary parasitology so that's the starting point for this blog. But I'm now branching out into other areas of biology and into popular science writing. I'll write here about science that happens in landscapes, particularly farmland, and about science involving interspecific interactions. Datasets and statistics get my attention. Exactly where this blog will lead? That's a journey that I'm on and I hope you'll come with me.
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