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

African Wild Ass (Equus africanus) Fact Sheet

three African wild asses

African Wild Ass (Equus africanus)

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


Taxonomy Physical Characteristics


Equus africanus - Heuglin & Fitzinger 1866
Equus asinus (domesticated form) - Linneaus 1758

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Perissodactyla

Suborder: Hippomorpha

Family: Equidae

Genus: Equus

[Species: Equus asinus - domestic donkey]

Species: Equus africanus - African wild ass

Subspecies: Equus africanus africanus
Subspecies: Equus africanus somaliensis

Body Weight: 275 kg (606 lbs)

Head/Body Length: 200 cm (6.6 ft)

Tail Length: 42 cm (17 in)

Pelage: Short smooth gray or brown
with dark stripe down center of back;
upright mane, no forelock; Somali wild
asses have dark leg banding.

Distribution & Status Behavior & Ecology

African wild asses in Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia.
[Domestic donkeys found nearly world-wide.]

Habitat: African wild asses - arid and semi-arid shrub or grassland. Domestic and feral donkeys - tolerate hot, arid conditions but adapt to many climates and environments.

IUCN Status: Critically Endangered (2014 assessment) (Moehlman et al. 2015)

CITES Appendix: Appendix I (excludes domesticated form)

Population in Wild:  African wild ass; 23-200 mature individuals (possibly 200 more individuals with additional sampling).

Locomotion: Walk, trot, canter, jump, gallop, swim

Activity Cycle: Graze until late afternoon; rest in heat of day

Social Groups: Small, unstable groups of females and young with one or more stallions; vary according to resources present

Diet: Grasses, bark, leaves, shrubs

Predators: In western U.S., mountain lions and humans

Reproduction & Development Species Highlights

Sexual Maturity: Males by 2 years; females by 1.5 years but don't usually breed until 2-3 years.

Gestation: 1 year

Litter Size: Usually one; two rarely

Birth weight: 25 kg (55 lb)

Age at Weaning: 12-14 mo.

Typical Life Expectancy: about 20 years in the wild for Equus africanus

Feature Facts:

  • Feral donkeys are well-adapted to life in hot arid environments; they can vary their body temperature by as much as 6.5° C (11.7° F).
  • Found in wild today only in Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Somalia
  • Hooves are the narrowest of any equid and quite small; these animals are very sure-footed as a result
  • Being hunted for food and medicinal purposes is primary threat to survival
  • Since the birth of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park's first Somali ass in 1986, 42 have been born there. Only four other U.S. institutions have Somali wild asses.
  • In 2011, the Safari Park had three new foals born to the herd's sire, "Freedom". Seven critically endangered Somali wild asses now reside at the Park. (Equus africanus somaliensis)..

About This Fact Sheet

© 2009-2018 San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. Updated 2015. Population estimates updated Nov 2018.

How to cite: African Wild Ass (Equus africanus) Fact Sheet. c2009-2018. San Diego (CA): San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance; [accessed YYYY Mmm dd]. africanwildass. 
(Note: replace YYYY Mmm dd with date accessed, e.g., 2015 Jan 15)

Disclaimer: Although San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance makes every attempt to provide accurate information, some of the facts provided may become outdated or replaced by new research findings. Questions and comments may be addressed to

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