Natural History

Sicilian donkeys are a smaller breed than domestic donkeys (Equus asinus) or asses. Donkeys are hard workers and have excellent stamina, which makes them an excellent animal for labor. They have traditionally been used for carrying packs or people. Donkeys are observant and cautious animals, which contributes to their perceived stubbornness. When trained properly, donkeys are obedient and will do a number of tasks as long as they do not feel they are in danger.  A startled donkey will freeze or move a few steps away to observe what scared it, unlike horses, which bolt when frightened.

They are generally social animals and get along with other livestock such as horses, cows, goats, and sheep. Donkeys have a calming presence among other farm animals and can help make training foals (baby donkeys) a more pleasant experience . Their soothing nature extends to humans as well, making them great companion animals for individuals with physical or mental disabilities. As herbivores, they enjoy eating a variety of hays, oats, grains, and grasses.Their flat teeth allow them to tear and chew plant material easily. The Maymont Farm has a Sicilian Donkey, named Percy, who enjoys humans quite a bit; especially when they give him pellets from the feed machine.

Fun Facts

  • In English, a small donkey is referred to as a burro. In Spanish, the word “burrito” means little donkey. This is also the name for a common Mexican dish that resembles the packs often carried by donkeys on their backs.
  • The Sicilian donkey originated from the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
  • Mules are a cross between a male horse and a female donkey.
  • A female donkeys is called a Jenny. A males is called a Jack and a castrated male is called a Gelding. Babies are referred to as foals.
  • Donkeys like to graze throughout the day and require a low protein, high fiber diet.