Skip to main content - The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids



Donkey Facts

Size 35.4-63 inch (90-160 cm) (shoulder height)
Speed Up to 15 mph (24 km/h)
Weight Up to 992 lb (450 kg)
Lifespan 15-40 years
Food Grass
Predators Foxes, wolves, lions
Habitat Everywhere in the world
Order Odd-toed ungulates
Family Equidae
Scientific name Equus asinus asinus (domesticated), Equus asinus (African), Equus hemionus (Asiatic), Equus kiang (Tibetan)
Characteristics Known for its "I-aaah!"

Main Characteristics

Donkeys are the smallest members of the horse family. They have a friendly and quiet character, although they are considered to be stubborn. They cannot be forced or trained to do anything, because they have their own mind.

Donkey Photo: pirita/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

The Tallest and The Smallest

The heaviest donkey is the French Poitou with a shoulder height of up to 4.9 feet (150 cm) and a weight of 992 lb (450 kg). The tallest donkey is the Catalan donkey with a shoulder height of up to 5.2 feet (160 cm) and a weight of 837 lb (380 kg). The smallest donkey is currently a mini donkey called KneeHi (“knee-high”) with a shoulder height of just 24.2 inch (61.59 cm).

Evolution and Origin

Where do donkeys come from? The European domestic donkey is a descendant of the African wild ass. Even if that sounds strange: Just like zebras donkeys belong to the animal family of the horses. Those animal species are closely related to each other.

Donkey Species

Donkey Species at a Glance

  • Domestic Donkey
  • African Wild Ass
  • Onager / Asiatic Wild Ass
  • Kiang / Tibetan Wild Ass
  • European Ass (extinct)

African Wild Ass

Size: Up to 4.7 feet (145 cm) (shoulder height)
Weight: Up to 606 lb (275 kg)
Habitat: Africa

The African wild donkey is much faster than its relatives. On short distances it can reach speeds of up to 43.4 mph (70 km/h), on longer distances it achieves a constant speed of 31 mph (50 km/h).

African Wild Ass African Wild Ass - Photo: Sergei25/Shutterstock

Onager / Asiatic Wild Ass

Size: Up to 4.2 feet (130 cm) (shoulder height)
Weight: Up to 639 lb (290 kg)
Habitat: Syria, Iran, Pakistan, India, Israel, Tibet

The long dorsal stripe on the back is characteristic for Asian donkeys. This species is very similar to horses.

Onager / Asiatic Wild Ass Onager / Asiatic Wild Ass - Photo: PhotocechCZ/Shutterstock

Kiang / Tibetan Wild Ass

Size: Up to 4.6 feet (142 cm) (Shoulder height)
Weight: Up to 970 lb (440 kg)
Habitat: Tibet

The Kiang also has a dorsal stripe, but significantly shorter ears than the other species. Most donkeys do not like water, but the Tibet donkey is quite good at swimming and also very sociable: It lives in groups of 5-400 animals.

Kiang / Tibetan Wild Ass Kiang / Tibetan Wild Ass - Photo: Wang LiQiang/Shutterstock


"You stubborn donkey!" You probably have heard this insult before. It originates from the fact that donkeys sometimes are not willing to even move one single inch. They have a good reason for this: Donkeys cannot run as fast as horses. It doesn't make much sense to panic and run away in a mad rush. What should they do? They just stay where they are and "think" about their current situation. Is it really that dangerous? Where should I flee? Panicking is for horses, considered action for donkeys.

Donkey Photo: Rachele Totaro IT/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities


Donkeys have an unbelievable memory. Even after 25 years they can remember other donkeys in the areas where they were living.

Fun Facts

Donkey Can Ease Stress

Donkeys are like little psychotherapists for nervous, timid or injured animals. With their soft and quiet manner they help other animals to calm down and regain their confidence. Therefore, donkeys are often kept with other animals.

The Donkey Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

Ungulate Species Fact Sheets


Most Read Mammal Fact Sheets

Recommended Fact Sheets

Pupils are welcome to use this information at school for animal profiles, fact sheets, essays, work sheets, presentations, posters or homework. All information appearing on this site has been precisely and thoroughly researched, nevertheless should you notice any errors, please do notify us via email.

See all topics on