Reproduction - Donkey

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In spite of the importance of mules and donkeys to the economies of many developing countries, knowledge of their reproductive pattern remains fragmentary. The attitude that all equines are similar, which prevailed for a long time, is false. In addition, some of the well known breeds of donkeys such as the Poitou, Catalonian and Zamorano-Leones breeds are in danger of extinction (Tibary and Bakkoury, 1994; Dare et al, 1998; Folch et al, 1998; Jordana et al, 1999; Serres et al, 2002; Tibary et al, 2006).

The objective of this section is to review current knowledge in donkey reproduction as well as their use for mule production. The chapter describes:

Female Reproduction including pregnancy

Male Reproduction including sexual behaviour and in-hand breeding

Artificial Breeding

Reproductive Disorders

In popular and scientific literature the female donkey is often referred to as ‘the donkey mare’, ‘jenny’ or ‘jennet’. The male donkey is referred to as the ‘donkey stallion’, ‘jack’ or ‘jackass’. There is some confusion on the use of the term jenny and jennet, as some may use them for the female mule (a cross between a horse stallion and a donkey mare). For the sake of consistency, the terms ‘jack’ and ‘jenny’ will be used throughout this section to refer to the male donkey and the female donkey respectively, while the term ‘mare’ and ‘stallion’ will be reserved for the horse genders.


Donkeys present some very striking differences in their reproductive process compared to the horse. These differences concern primarily the reproductive physiology. Behavioural peculiarities should be taken into consideration when training male jacks for semen collection or breeding to horse mares for mule production. There is a lack of information concerning the interaction of nutrition and reproduction in these species. The effects on fertility and dystocia when breeding jennies to stallions need further studies.

Literature Search

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Use these links to find recent scientific publications via CAB Abstracts (log in required unless accessing from a subscribing organisation).

Donkey Reproduction related publications

Reproduction in donkeys. Purdy, S. R.; The North American Veterinary Conference, Gainesville, USA, Large animal. Proceedings of the North American Veterinary Conference, Orlando, Florida, USA, 16-20 January 2010, 2010, pp 249-252, 5 ref. - Full Text Article

How to manage jacks to breed mares. Canisso, I. F.; Silva, M. A. C. da; Morel, M. C. G. D.; McDonnell, S.; White, N., II; American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP), Lexington, USA, Proceedings of the 55th Annual Convention of the American Association of Equine Practitioners, Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, 5-9 December 2009, 2009, pp 342-348, 18 ref. - Full Text Article


  • Tibary, A., Sghiri, A. & Bakkoury, M. (2008) Reproduction In Svendsen, E.D., Duncan, J. and Hadrill, D. (2008) The Professional Handbook of the Donkey, 4th edition, Whittet Books, Chapter 17

  • Darre, A., Berland,M.J., Seguela, A., Pinton, A., Blanc, M.F., Ducos, A., Tainturier, D., Vendramini, M., and Darre, R. (1998). ‘Cytogenetic study on two populations of donkeys. Discovery of a chromosomal abnormality in Baudet du Poitou’. Revue de Médecine Véterinaire 149. pp 233-238.
  • Folch, P.J.J., Paweska, J.T., and Branford, R.D.T.M. (1998). ‘Demographic characterization, inbreeding and maintenance of genetic diversity in the endangered Catalonian donkey breed’. Genetics, Selection, Evolution 30. pp 195-201.
  • Jordana, J., Folch, P., and Sanchez, A. (1999). ‘Genetic variation (protein markers and microsatellites) in endangered Catalonian donkeys’. Biochemical Systematics and Ecology 27. pp 791-798.
  • Serres, C., Rodrigues, A., Alvarez, A.L., Santiago, I., Gabriel, J., Gomez-Cuetara, C., and Mateos, E. (2002). ‘Effect of centrifugation and temperature on the motility and plasma membrane integrity of Zamorano-Leones donkey semen’. Theriogenology 58. pp 329-332.
  • Tibary, A., Bakkoury, M.(eds). (1994). ‘Particularités de la reproduction chez les autres espèces équines’. Reproduction équine, Tome I: La jument. Actes Editions 1994. pp 385-400.
  • Tibary, A., Sghiri, A., Bakkoury, M., and Anouassi, A. (2006). ‘Insémination artificielle’. Reproduction Equine Tome III: Biotechnologies Appliquées, A.Tibary and M. Bakkoury (eds). Actes Editions, Morocco, 2006. pp 9-155.

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