Equus asinus (donkeys)
- Summary of Invasiveness
- Taxonomic Tree
- Distribution Table
- Habitat List
- Biology and Ecology
- Means of Movement and Dispersal
- Impact Summary
- Threatened Species
- Risk and Impact Factors
- Uses List
- Prevention and Control
- Links to Websites
- Distribution Maps
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PicturesTop of page
IdentityTop of page
Preferred Scientific Name
- Equus asinus Linnaeus, 1758
Preferred Common Name
International Common Names
- English: African wild ass; ass; asses; donkey
Local Common Names
- Italy: asino
DADIS local name
- American Spotted
- Andalusian Donkey
- Ase Mallorquí
- Asian Wild Ass
- Asino Cagusano
- Asino di Martina Franca
- Baluchi Wild Ass
- Baudet du Poitou
- Burro Majorero
- Domestic Balkan donkey
- Equus africanus africanus Fitzinger
- Garañón Leonés
- Hemippe De Syrie
- Indian Onager
- Jumento Nordestino
- Lagoa dourada
- Majorero ass
- Mesopotamian Onager
- Moldoveneasca Localá
- Mongolian Wild Ass
- Persian Onager
- Persian Wild Ass
- Raza Asinia Catalana
- Shindawi Riding Ass
- South Shanxi
- Sudanese Riding
- Syrian Onager
- Thor Char
- Transcaspian Onager
- Viterbo Grey
DADIS main name
- Asino dell'Amiata
- Asino dell'Asinara
- Asino Sardo
- Asno Andaluz
- Asno de las Encartaciones
- Domaci balk. magarac
- Grigio viterbese
- Indian Wild Ass
- Iranian Onager
- Mammoth Jack Stock
- Martina Franca
- Meskhet- Dzhavakhetskaya
- Moldavian Local
- Native of North Africa
- Nubian Wild Ass
- Puttalam Buruwa
- Somali Wild Ass
- Sudanese Pack
- Syrian Wild Ass
Summary of InvasivenessTop of page
Equus asinus (donkeys) resemble horses and are characterised by their large head, long ears and cow-like tail. They can be found in tropical savannas and arid hill country in Australia and other arid and desert habitats elsewhere in its range. In its invasive range, Equus asinus have deleterious and potentially irreversible impacts on native flora and fauna. Damage has been documented in plant communities, soils, wildlife and water quality. Management of this species can be difficult. Cultural pressures prevent lethal methods of management from being used. Typical management techniques involve removing the species from their natural habitat and placing them in reserves where they will not pose a threat. The growing number of feral donkeys, roaming free across Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia propitiate extensive hybridisation with their wild relative Equus africanus and thus contribute to the extinction of the E. africanus.
Taxonomic TreeTop of page
- Domain: Eukaryota
- Kingdom: Metazoa
- Phylum: Chordata
- Subphylum: Vertebrata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Perissodactyla
- Family: Equidae
- Genus: Equus
- Species: Equus asinus
DescriptionTop of page
Equus asinus resemble horses and are characterised by their large head, long ears and cow-like tail. Colours can very from black, white, paint and all shades of brown and grey, however the most common is a mousey grey colour (called dun grey). Many E. asinus are spotted, speckled or striped. Most solid-colour E. asinus have a dark dorsal stripe from mane to tail and a dark stripe across their shoulders. They have an erect mane and lack the forelock of a horse. The hair can be straight, curly, short and wiry, or long and woolly. Wild E. asinus average 200cm in body length, 45cm in tail length, 125cm at the shoulder, and weigh 250kg. Domestic breed size varies greatly, depending on breed. Miniatures, the smallest breed of E. asinus, stand less than 92cm (36 inches) at the shoulder and weigh less than 180kg (400 pounds). Standard E. asinus, the average-sized breed, range from 92cm to 123cm (36 inches to 48 inches) and weigh 180 to 225kg (400 to 500 pounds). Mammoth stock, the largest breed of E. asinus, stand at an average height of 143cm (56 inches) and weigh about 430kg (950 pounds). There is generally very little sexual dimorphism in E. asinus. Wild E. asinus have the longest and narrowest hooves of any Equus species (Huggins 2002).
DistributionTop of page
Native range: Africa (Huggins, 2002).
Known introduced range: Asia, Australasia-Pacific, North America (Department of the Environment and Heritage 2004; Rudman 1998; Smithsonian Institution 1993).
The Distribution Table and map include records of presence of Equus asinus from ISSG (2011) with native/introduced and invasive statuses, supplemented by records of presence mined from the CAB Abstracts database which are not restricted to feral populations. However, these sources provide an incomplete global distribution for this very widespread domesticated species.
Distribution TableTop of page
The distribution in this summary table is based on all the information available. When several references are cited, they may give conflicting information on the status. Further details may be available for individual references in the Distribution Table Details section which can be selected by going to Generate Report.Last updated: 10 Feb 2022
|Continent/Country/Region||Distribution||Last Reported||Origin||First Reported||Invasive||Reference||Notes|
|-Ascension||Present||Introduced||1900||As: Equus asinus|
|-Tristan da Cunha||Present||Introduced||1867||As: Equus asinus|
|French Southern Territories||Absent, Eradicated||1949||As: Equus asinus. Original location reported: Kerguelen Islands|
|British Indian Ocean Territory|
|British Virgin Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|Turks and Caicos Islands||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|United States||Present||Introduced||As: Equus asinus. First reported: 1930 - 1939|
|Australia||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
|-New South Wales||Present||Introduced||Invasive|
|U.S. Minor Outlying Islands||Absent, Eradicated||1915||As: Equus asinus|
|Argentina||Present||Introduced||1500||As: Equus asinus|
|-Rio de Janeiro||Present|
|Chile||Present||Introduced||As: Equus asinus. First reported: 1500s|
|Ecuador||Present||Present based on regional distribution.|
HabitatTop of page
Huggins (2002) states that, "Domestic Equus asinus are widely distributed and can be found almost everywhere in the world. However, true wild E. asinus originated in the hilly, undulating deserts of northern Africa and the Arabian peninsula and are well-adapted for life in the desert. Domestic E. asinus prefer warm, dry climates and, if left to become feral, they will return to such a habitat, like the feral E. asinus of Death Valley National Park in California. Deserts are characterized by low, unpredictable rainfall and sparse vegetation."
Habitat ListTop of page
|Terrestrial||Natural / Semi-natural||Deserts||Present, no further details||Harmful (pest or invasive)|
Biology and EcologyTop of page
Means of Movement and DispersalTop of page
Local dispersal methods
Natural dispersal (local):
Impact SummaryTop of page
ImpactTop of page
The Department of the Environment and Heritage (2004) Australia classify feral E. asinus as serious environmental pests. They cause erosion and damage vegetation with their hard hoofs. They damage and foul waterholes, and introduce weeds through seeds carried in their dung, manes and tails. E. asinus may also compete for food and water with native animals. The impact of E. asinus on native grasses, herbs, shrubs and drinkable water is most pronounced during drought. They can quickly degrade areas close to remote waterholes, which during a drought become refuges critical to the survival of many native animals and plants. Without these refuges, native plants and animals may become locally extinct. E. asinus also have an impact on the productivity of farming land.
Results of a study in the high altitude Spiti Valley, Indian Trans-Himalaya, on the competition between seven species of livestock (Equus asinus being one of the seven) and the wild herbivore mountain ungulate bharal (Pseudois nayaur) showed that there is dietry overlap among these herbivore species. The study concluded that this high diet overlap between livestock and bharal, together with density-dependent forage limitation, results in resource competition and a decline in bharal density (Mishra et al. 2004).
Threatened SpeciesTop of page
Risk and Impact FactorsTop of page
- Threat to/ loss of native species
- Competition - monopolizing resources
UsesTop of page
In Australia Equus asinus serve as pack animals and in haulage teams. E. asinus played a very important role in developing long-distance trade in Egypt, because of their weight-bearing capacity and their adaptation for desert travel. In ancient Egypt, female E. asinus were kept as dairy animals. E. asinus milk is higher in sugar and protein than cow's milk. The milk was also used for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. E. asinus meat was eaten as food by many people. There were domesticated E. asinus in Europe by the second millenium B.C. and the first E. asinus came to the New World with Christopher Columbus in 1495. E. asinus were introduced to the United States with Mexican explorers. Many of the wild E. asinus in the southwestern United States are descendants of escaped or abandoned E. asinus brought by Mexican explorers during the Gold Rush. Miniature E. asinus are very popular as companion animals and for show (Department of the Environment and Heritage 2004; Huggins 2002).
Uses ListTop of page
- Working animals (miscellaneous)
Prevention and ControlTop of page
Due to the variable regulations around (de)registration of pesticides, your national list of registered pesticides or relevant authority should be consulted to determine which products are legally allowed for use in your country when considering chemical control. Pesticides should always be used in a lawful manner, consistent with the product's label.
In Australia, drought has a severe impact on E. asinus. During drought many individuals can die, mainly from starvation, lack of water and eating toxic plants that they usually avoid. They gather round waterholes where they are often culled for humane reasons (Department of the Environment and Heritage 2004). Herds are often mustered and usually some of the younger are turned into pets. Trapping may be less stressful than mustering, but there are animal welfare concerns about the handling of feral E. asinus in traps and during transport to abattoirs.
Biological: Fertility control is a non-lethal approach to feral horse management but it is currently of limited use. Fertility control techniques are difficult to administer to large numbers of feral E. asinus and the treatment would need to be repeated often to be effective. It is not yet known whether such techniques can reduce the environmental damage caused by a population of feral E. asinus in an area of high conservation value.
BibliographyTop of page
Beja-Pereira, A; England, P. R; Ferrand, N; Jordan, S; Bakhiet, A. O; Abdalla, M. A.; Mashkour, M; Jordana, J; Taberlet, P; Luikart, G., 2004. African origins of the domestic donkey. Science (Washington D C). 304(5678). 1781.
BISON (Biota Information System of New Mexico). 2004. Equus asinus. New Mexico Department of Game & Fish.
CONABIO. 2008. Sistema de información sobre especies invasoras en México. Especies invasoras - Mamíferos. Comisión Nacional para el Conocimiento y Uso de la Biodiversidad. Fecha de acceso. http://www.conabio.gob.mx/invasoras/index.php/Especies_invasoras_-_Mam%C3%ADferos
Department of the Environment and Heritage. 2004. Feral horse (Equus caballus) and feral donkey (Equus asinus). Invasive Species. http://www.environment.gov.au/biodiversity/invasive/publications/feral-horse.html
Huffman, B. 2004. Equus asinus, African wild ass. An Ultimate Ungulate Fact Sheet. http://www.ultimateungulate.com/Perissodactyla/Equus_asinus.html
Huggins, B. 2002. Equus asinus. Animal Diversity Web. http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Equus_asinus.html
IUCN/SSC Invasive Species Specialist Group (ISSG)., 2010. A Compilation of Information Sources for Conservation Managers Involved in the Prevention, Eradication, Management and Control of the Spread of Invasive Alien Species that are a Threat to Native biodiversity and Natural Ecosystems.
McDonnell, S. M. 1998. Reproductive behavior of donkeys (Equus asinus). Applied Animal Behavior Science 60: 277-282.
Mishra, C; Van Wieren, S. E; Ketner, P; Heitkönig, I.M.A and Prins, H.H.T., 2004. Journal of Applied Ecology. Competition between domestic livestock and wild bharal Pseudois nayaur in the Indian Trans-Himalaya Volume 41 Issue 2 Page 344
Reid, S.W. J.; Godley, B. J; Henderson, S.M.; Lawrie, G. J.; Lloyd, D; Small, K; Swannie, N; and Thomas, R. L., 1997. Ecology and behaviour of the feral donkey, Equus asinus, population of the Karpas peninsula, northern Cyprus. Zoology in the Middle East. 14(0). 27-36.
Royo, A. R. UNDATED. Wild Burro, Equus asinus. DesertUSA.com.
Rudman, R. 1998. The social organization of feral donkeys (Equus asinus) on a small Caribbean island St. John, US Virgin Islands. Applied Animal Behavior Science 60: 211-228.
Smithsonian Institution. 1993. Equus asinus. MSW Scientific Names.
Stubbs, C. J. 1999. Feral burro Removal: New Solutions to an Old Problem. Natural Resource Year in Review: publication D-1346. http://www2.nature.nps.gov/YearinReview/yir98/chapter06/chapter06pg2.html
Varnham, K. 2006. Non-native species in UK Overseas Territories: a review. JNCC Report 372. Peterborough: United Kingdom. http://www.jncc.gov.uk/page-3660
ReferencesTop of page
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 1998. Recovery Plan for the Pedate Checkermallow (Sidalcea pedata) and the Slender-Petaled Mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum). In: Recovery Plan for the Pedate Checkermallow (Sidalcea pedata) and the Slender-Petaled Mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum) : US Fish and Wildlife Service.68 pp.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. Island phacelia (Phacelia insularis var. insularis). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Island phacelia (Phacelia insularis var. insularis). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.16 pp.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2008. Taraxacum californicum (California taraxacum). Five-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Taraxacum californicum (California taraxacum). Five-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.26 pp.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009. Acanthoscyphus (Oxytheca) parishii var. goodmaniana (Cushenbury oxytheca). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Acanthoscyphus (Oxytheca) parishii var. goodmaniana (Cushenbury oxytheca). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.21 pp.
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2009. Erigeron parishii (Parish's daisy). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Erigeron parishii (Parish's daisy). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.21 pp. http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc2565.pdf
US Fish and Wildlife Service, 2013. Castilleja cinerea (Ash-gray Paintbrush). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation. In: Castilleja cinerea (Ash-gray Paintbrush). 5-Year Review: Summary and Evaluation : US Fish and Wildlife Service.45 pp. http://ecos.fws.gov/docs/five_year_review/doc4138.pdf
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ContributorsTop of page
Reviewed by: Albano Beja Pereira, CIBIO- University of Porto Campus Agrario de Vairao, Portugal
Distribution MapsTop of page
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CABI Summary Records
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