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African Wild Ass (Equus africanus) & Domesticated Donkey (Equus asinus) Fact Sheet: Reproduction & Development


Courtship and access to females

  • In arid climates
    • Males control access to resources females need, like water (Moehlman 1998)
    • Able to access females in estrus
    • Grevy's zebras have similar mating systems
  • In wetter habitats
    • Donkey stallions have a harem of bonded females that he defends from outside males
      • Horses and plains zebras also have this mating system (Moehlman 1998)
    • Feral donkey mares in estrus outside a stallion's territory of may attract a number of stallions who fight but may all mate with her. (Klingel 1998)
    • Receptive females stand with hind legs apart and tail held to the side. (Klingel 1998)

Mating sequence (Klingel 1998)

  • Stallions sniff the female
  • Female kicks towards him in a ritualized fashion and travels forward.
  • Stallion follows, driving her for an average distance of 20 m (65.6ft).
    • Tame and feral donkeys and onager males all drive or chase the females a certain distance before mating
  • When female halts, male mounts, and copulates.


  • Females may be in estrus for up to 8 days. (Grinder et al 2006)
  • Females in a group do not all come into estrus at the same time (Moehlman 1998)
  • Peak breeding seasons vary in feral populations according to timing of wet/dry seasons. (Grinder et al 2006)

Gestation & Birth


  •  1 year


  • Female gives birth to one or two foals
  • Weight of foals: 25 kg (55 lb)

Life Stages


  • Can begin nibbling plants at 5 days when incisor teeth erupt (Moehlman 1998)
  • Regularly browse on vegetation by 2 weeks, but depend on mother's milk for fluid (Moelhman 1998)
  • Weaned at 12-14 months (Grinder et al 2006)
  • At one year, foal still spends most of its time close to its mother (Grinder et al 2006)


  • Sexual maturity for males by 2 years; can produce sperm earlier (Grinder et al 2006)
  • Females reach sexual maturity at 1.5 yrs. but don't usually breed until 2-3 yrs (Grinder et al 2006)
    • Observed wild donkeys in U.S. deserts and reported females have first foals later, at age 3.5 to 4 years (Moehlman 2002)


Typical Life Expectancy

Wild populations

  • Averages about 20 years (Klingel 1990)

Managed care

  • No AZA estimates


  • Feral donkeys in U.S. face mountain lion and wolf predators
  • Feral donkeys in U.S. subject to Wild, Free-Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971 (Grinder et al 2006)
    • Law requires protection, management, and control of horses and burros on public lands
    • National Park Service is exempt from this law and may remove burros dead or alive from its lands.
  • Wild donkeys in Australia are culled by hunters in helicopters and on the ground.

African Wild Ass Family

Family of wild asses grazing

Family of African wild asses, grazing.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Clutton-Brock (1992)
Grinder et al (2006)
Klingel (1990, 1998)

Moehlman (1998, 2002)
Nowak (1999)

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