If you have ever been on a farm, chances are you’ve seen a donkey. Or maybe you’ve seen a burro or a mule. Who knows at this point, right? All of these animals look the same, behave the same, even make the same noises. Well, to unfamiliar eyes and ears, donkeys and mules are the same animals. However, once you take a closer look, there are significant differences between them, and two of the three are actually the same animal.

Now, there are over 50 million donkeys and mules in this world. They all come in different shapes and sizes. If you rush to compare donkeys to horses, you’d be pretty mistaken. Horses and donkeys also differ, significantly, in almost every aspect of their physical and mental characteristics.

But, we’re here to discuss the differences between a burro and a donkey, right? So, let’s get that out of the way first, and then we’ll discuss the differences between donkeys and mules. So, without further ado, let’s get right into this!

Donkeys and Burros – The Same or Different?

Donkeys and Burros – The Same or Different
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Well, sometimes people tend to acquire different names for the same animal as a result of cultural impact, different language exposure, and so much more. In such cases, words from different languages become so integrated into our everyday vocabulary that we start associating them with completely different things, compared to their original meaning.

The same thing happened to the word ‘burro’. Burro isn’t a donkey species; it is simply a Spanish word for ‘donkey’, or to be more precise, ‘a small donkey used as a pack animal’, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary.

So, are burros and donkeys different? Well, of course not. They’re the same animals, only with different names in different languages. Some would argue that burros are smaller donkeys, and they would be right.

In some parts of the country people do refer to small donkeys as burros, but generally speaking, they’re the same animals, just with different names in Spanish and English. We do have to admit that there can be a difference in coat color, but generally speaking, donkeys or burros look the same, behave the same, and even make the same ‘Hee-Haw’ sound.

But, Aren’t Burros Miniature Donkeys?

Considering the size of donkeys, or burros, some would argue that burros are more similar to miniature donkeys than to regular donkeys. Well, they would be completely wrong. Why?

Regular donkeys are generally anywhere between 36 to 48 inches in height, measure from the hoof to the shoulder. When it comes to their weight, they can weigh anywhere between 400 and 1100 pounds (mammoth donkeys). The same goes for burros, where the heigh difference can be only of few inches.

However, when it comes to miniature donkeys, we’re talking about a significant difference in height and weight. Miniature donkeys stand at the maximum at only 36 inches, when measured from hoof to shoulder. When it comes to their weight, they only weigh up to 400 pounds at best.

Are There Other Donkey Names I Should Know?

Yes, there are dozens of different names you can use to refer to a donkey. The words and names differ from one language to the other, as well as from one area to the other. Here are some of the most common words and names used to refer to a donkey, other than the word burro;

  • Asino – the Italian word for ‘donkey’
  • Ass – male or female donkey
  • Jenny – used to refer to a female donkey
  • Jack – used to refer to a male donkey
  • Molly – used to refer to a female mule
  • Moke – British term for ‘donkey’
  • Hinny – the opposite of a mule – a breeding result between a female donkey and a male horse

Other terms related to donkeys include;

  • Filly – a female donkey younger than the age of 4
  • Colt – a male donkey younger than the age of 4
  • Mare – a female donkey
  • Gelding – a castrated male donkey
  • Stallion – male donkey that hasn’t been castrated
  • Rig – male donkey with no external testicles
  • Yearling – young male or female donkey between the age 1 and 2

Let’s Talk About Donkeys and Mules! – They Are Actually Different!

Despite being closely related, donkeys and mules are actually pretty different. Sure, people have a hard time telling them apart, and when you add horses to the equation, the differentiation becomes even harder. But, to a trainer’s eye (and to people who have seen all three of the animals in real life), the differences are crystal clear. So, let’s take a closer look at donkeys and mules and see what makes them so similar, yet so different!

Donkeys and Mules are different
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Appearance

When it comes to appearance, donkeys and mules share some similarities. But, when we look at the numbers, the differences start at the height, weight, and even the lifespan of the animals.

The average height of an adult donkey is 36 to 60 inches, while the average height of an adult mule is between 46 and 70 inches. When it comes to weight, an average adult donkey weighs between 400 and 1100 pounds (mammoth donkeys). However, a mule can weigh between 600 and 1500 pounds. Donkeys are expected to live anywhere between 25 and 30 years, while mules generally live between 35 and 40 years.

And probably, the most notable difference between donkeys and mules is their trainability. Donkeys are incredibly intelligent but very stubborn. Mules are also highly intelligent, but also gentle, docile, and well-behaved.

Donkeys and Mules appearance
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Origin

Donkeys are believed to be descendants of the Wild African Ass. They’re also believed to have been first domesticated and used in Africa, or more specifically, in ancient Egypt. There are speculations that donkeys were also a part of the Mesopotamian animal resources, about 6000 years ago.

Mules, on the other hand, don’t have a specific place of origin. Why you may ask. Well, mules are actually a result of cross-breeding between horses and donkeys. A male donkey will cross-breed with a female horse, and result in a mule. Now, mules are believed to be the oldest form of animal cross-breeding. It is believed that the ancient inhabitants of northern modern Turkey were the first people to breed mules. It is also believed that mules were bred in ancient Egypt, as well as in Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and Asia.

Diet

One of the best ways to compare animals is to look at their diet and nutritional preferences. For example, donkeys are excellent farm animals, especially because they don’t require much food to function and survive. Donkeys are generally satisfied when they’re provided with straw, hay, and grass. Up to 50% of the donkey’s diet consists of grazing on grass, hay, or haylage.

Alongside grass and hay grazing, mules also tend to eat things horses like to eat. Their diet, therefore, also consists of carrots, apples, as well as other fruits and vegetables. Mules also don’t eat much, but they do require high-quality grass and hay, as well as fruits and veggies.

Donkeys and Mules Diet differences
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Use and Trainability

Donkeys are used for many different things, generally in the realm of work around the farm. They are strong, hard-working animals often used to carry stuff around. However, despite being excellent work animals, donkeys are almost never ridden.

Mammoth donkeys are the only riding-suitable donkeys thanks to their size and overall stability. Regular donkeys are far from being suitable for riding, not only because of their lack of physical predispositions but also because of their temper and stubbornness.

Mules, on the other hand, represent the best of both worlds; they work hard like donkeys, and they can be ridden like horses. Mules are excellent pack animals and are suitable for draught work or cart pulling. They can even race, jump, and do almost anything horses can do.

What About Hinnies?

What About Hinnies
Coachella Valley Preserve

A hinny is a domestic offspring of a male horse and a female donkey. It is basically the opposite of a mule, not only in origin but also in physiology and temperament. An average hinny is of a small structure; it has shorter ears, but stronger legs. There is also the thick mane, which is surely thicker than that of an average mule. Hinnies also seem to resemble more horses than they resemble donkeys. However, at the end of the day, hinnies surely look more like mules, which is why people have a hard time telling them apart.

Final Thoughts

Donkeys have been around humans for thousands of years. They have helped us build civilizations, just like horses, cows, and other domesticated animals. However, donkeys seem to be underappreciated as well as underestimated. Therefore, it is important to shine a light on these wonderful animals, that not only help us on farms but also act as excellent companions for other farm animals. Hopefully, this article has highlighted all the important information regarding donkeys, mules, as well as hinnies.

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