ISPMB – Donkeys, Asses and Everything In-Between

When we discuss animals there are some which can get confusing if they are called different things in different countries. In the case of the donkey however, this is potentially the most confusing mix of names of any other animal.

These are incredible creatures and whilst we may have only used them as work animals for such a long time, there is so much more to learn about the donkey. In terms of names, you may have heard things like ass, donkey, burro, jackass, mules and many other terms, and today we are going to clear up what is what. Thanks to the information from the brilliant team at ISPMB, here is a breakdown of when a donkey is a donkey, and when it is not.

So… What is a Donkey?

Let’s start with the most common name which you’ll be used to, donkey. Indigenous to Africa and a member of the horse family, the humble donkey is also referred to by the name ‘ass’. This is down to the fact that the Latin name for the donkey is ‘asinus’. These animals have a reputation for being stubborn, they have incredible hearing and a memory which is able to go back 25 years!

And… a Jackass

Although it is often used as an insult in our vernacular, the jackass is in fact the same thing as a donkey. The reason for the use of ‘jack’ here is that this phrase is used to refer to a male donkey. In the donkey world, Jack is used for the men, and Jennets is used for the boys. And so when you hear the word jackass, this is just someone talking about a male donkey.

Right… So What is a Burro?

Now burro is a slightly tricky one, and that is because it is a Spanish word, what makes it complicated is that the word directly translates as ‘donkey’. Where it gets a little more tricky is that we use the word burro in the English language, but not to talk about donkeys per se. In fact what this does refer to is a wild donkey. In states like Texas for example these burros are causing a lot of problems because they are not native to the state. This results in the burro causing issues for other wildlife, having escaped from ranches or having been abandoned. Technically speaking a burro is a donkey, yet there is more to the word than that.

And Finally, The Mule

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Like some other species in the wild, these two can in fact procreate. The result is a large donkey, or mule, which does in fact carry with it characteristics of both a horse and a donkey. This does not work with male horse and a female donkey, interestingly enough.

So there you have it, now you now your donkeys from your mules, your burros from your asses.