Burro or Donkey?

What is the difference between a donkey and a burro?

The dictionary defines a burro as a small donkey used as a pack animal in the southwestern United States and Mexico; a donkey, Equus asinus, is an ass; an ass is a long-eared, sure-footed, domesticated animal related to the horse and used as a beast of burden.

“Burro” is Spanish for ass. “Burro” is also used to describe feral donkeys. Thus, a burro is a wild donkey.        Burro Crossing Sign

The first donkeys arrived in the Western Hemisphere with the second voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1495 and multiplied in Mexico. They crossed the Rio Grande to the United States around 1598. They aided natives at mission settlements to grind flour. Gold prospectors used them as pack animals. Most were later abandoned and established a feral population with mustangs.

Burros are included in the Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse Adoption Program. For more information please visit their website,  www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/whbprogram.html.

Burros come in a variety of colors.

Burros    Burro

The white burro with brown patches is most unusual while the gray burro is the common color associated with donkeys. Donkeys are known for their distinct shoulder stripe (see photo).

Most domesticated donkeys have a black dorsal stripe. When the shoulder and dorsal stripes meet, it is called a “cross”.

A mule is the offspring of a male horse (stallion) and a female donkey (jenny), or a male donkey (jackass) and a female horse (mare). Mules cannot reproduce. A mule is larger and stronger than a donkey but more sure-footed than a horse.



About Lynne Schaefer

Lynne Schaefer has written two newspaper columns ("The Schussboomer" about skiing in California, and "Notes from Lynne's Journal" about Oregon wildlife); travel and garden articles for regional magazines copy for DVD tours of the High Desert Museum and the Newberry National Volcanic Monument, both in Bend, Oregon. She has published three non-fiction books, A Traveler's Guide to Historic California, Christmas Trivia Quiz, and His Daughter's Remembrance.
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