Jack, John, or Jenny.................? 

              that is one of the basic questions you ask yourself when you decide to
              find out what kind of donkey to look for. other times, a special donkey
              'comes along' and you want to find out if he/she is suitable in temperament
              for you and your family.

              below is an introduction into basic care of donkeys and what to take into
              consideration when you have to make up your mind about these choices.

                   general care/sizes
                   the famous 'Jack Files' -- collected and provided by camilla

Jack, John, or Jenny?
Which gender would be the best donkey for you?

No two donkeys are exactly alike.  They are individuals with very distinct personality traits.  Their behavior patterns can be influenced by environment, by gender, or by a learned habit.  Once socialized with humans donkeys can be very affectionate and lovable. Donkeys are equines but a donkey's willingness to accept a human as a member of their herd and their ability to form an emotional attachment to a human make a donkey less horse-like and more of a companion animal similar to man's relationship with dogs.

GENERAL CARE:  A donkey needs grass or grass hay, fresh water and access to a salt and mineral block.  They should have shelter from cold winds, snow, rain, and shade from the hot summer sun.  They will need to have their feet trimmed at least once a year and more often in regions of the country where the environment does not wear off their hard hooves.  This can be as often as every 8 weeks in some areas.  They should receive annual vaccinations and your local veterinarian can tell you what is needed for your area.  They will also need parasite control to protect them from internal parasites. This is also something your veterinarian can advise you on and most recommend a 60 day rotational worming program with simple to use equine paste wormers.  I do not recommend Quest for worming donkeys.

SIZES:  Donkeys can be any size from a 

miniature 30 inches to 36 inches,
standard size 36 inches to 48 inches, 
large standard 48 inches to 54 inches,  or 
mammoth 54 inches and taller. 

Miniatures  can be taught to pull a cart or pack and standard, large standard, and mammoth donkeys can be taught to ride, drive and pack.


jenny (jennet)  is a female donkey.  Young jennets in some ways remind me of human teenage girls.  They giggle a lot and prefer to "hang out" in groups.  They are daddy's sweet, loveable, little girl until they begin  approaching sexual maturity.  A young jennet can begin having a monthly heat cycle as early as eight months old. 
Once they reach sexual maturity most jennets have a strong maternal instinct.  Young maiden jennets may even practice their mothering skills on humans or small animals by wanting to "herd" you and keep you away from other animals.  It isn't unusual for an older jennet to "adopt" a human child or adult and be very protective and affectionate toward that person. 
Approximately twenty-five days out of every month a jennet will be content to eat, sleep, and socialize with humans.  For the other five days of the month the normally sweet girl can be grouchy and short-tempered because her hormones are urging her to seek a mate.  During this time she may eat only when hunger forces her to and she is definitely distracted by being "boy-crazy" during this time. 
When a jennet is pregnant she may be clinging and demanding of more affection. After foaling she may focus all of her attention and affection on her newborn for several days or even weeks and be very protective toward it so it is wise to use caution when approaching a jennet with a foal.  Some jennets can become very aggressive toward humans and other animals in their desire to protect their baby. 

Baby donkeys are adorable but before you decide to have your jennet bred take a moment to consider your family pet will have a different and demanding job for the approximately twelve months and twelve days of her pregnancy and for up to ten months after the foal is born being a mother.  Besides losing your family pet for nearly two years another thing you should consider is you will have the responsibility of training and seeing to the needs of the foal for its entire life which can include finding a loving family to adopt and love it if you decide you don't want to keep it. 
There is an emotional price you will pay if you don't want to keep the foal.  It rips out a part of your heart when the jennet frantically cries for her baby as it is hauled away.  The ka-ping you feel in your chest is the same feeling you felt when you watched your youngest child get on the school bus for the first time on the first day of school. The difference is you knew your baby would be coming home after school, and your jennet instinctively knows she will never see her baby again. 

I feel jennet owners should breed responsibility and not just because they want a cute, cuddly donkey foal.  Before having a jennet bred sit down and talk it  over with your family and make long range plans about what you will do with the foal, whether you will keep it or find a loving family to adopt it and give it a lifetime home.  I am not anti-breeding but I do feel a very strong responsibility to protect and provide for the needs of all my children whether they are human or donkey.  There are thousands of donkeys each year who are unwanted and without homes. 


John donkey is a castrated jack and is also called a gelding.  A donkey can be gelded as early as right after birth or later when he is older.  The younger he is gelded the less likely he will develop jack-like tendencies.  Geldings have a jack's intelligence but without the influence of the breeding hormones.  A gelding focuses all of his attention on eating, sleeping, playing and socializing with humans.  Because he is a castrated animal and no longer influenced by the breeding urges the purpose of a gelded donkey's life becomes being a love sponge to soak up all the attention and affection a human can give him.  Their natural curiosity, intelligence, quiet and friendly nature make geldings excellent pets for the whole family.  I highly recommend geldings for pets.

Jack donkey is an intact breeding male donkey.  With over 35 years of being a donkey trainer handling all ages, sizes, and genders of donkeys I feel I have the knowledge and experience to state I do not consider any jack to be a pet suitable to be around children or an inexperienced handler. Unlike a jennet who only goes through a monthly cycle of hormones urging her to mate, a jack's actions are controlled by his libido and he is determined to breed any time his libido is stimulated by a sight, sound, or scent. The primary purpose of his life is reproduction which is why keeping a jack as a pet can be dangerous.  The docile nature of a donkey misleads people into thinking their jack can be a pet the same as a gelded jack or a jennet.
Most of the time a jack can be a gentle creature and that is why caution must be used every minute you are around a jack.  A jack's mating instinct can be very strong and his urge may be triggered by something the handler is not aware of.  A jack normally isn't vicious but he can become very aggressive because nature programmed him with a single-minded determination to not allow anything, including human interference to prevent him from reaching the source of the sight, sound, or scent that is issuing a mating call to him. 
Most accidents involving a jack occur because the handler is not expecting his usually docile jack to suddenly without warning become aggressive.  This leads to a handler being caught by surprise by the jack's suddenly frantic behavior and this makes a very dangerous situation.  The scent of a female in heat can be carried on the wind for a long distance so there is no way a handler can know for certain when his quiet, easy to handle jack will suddenly turn into a rutting male determined to go in search of the ovulating female his nose tells him is just out of his sight. 
A jack reaches sexual maturity at about 8 months old.  With training a jack can be taught to hold his urge in check until the handler gives him the go ahead to perform but this training takes time and patience is not something I would advise an inexperienced handler to attempt.  I highly recommend learning about donkeys by caring for a gelding or jennet before attempting to handle a jack. 

For more information about jacks please look at the Jack Files. These 'files' are first-person accounts of owners and former owners of jacks who urge anyone to be VERY careful around a jack.  They also include suggestions on how to set up a jack's living quarters so that it will keep him happy and keep you safe.

I believe donkeys are magical creatures.  After a long day at work I can spend time with my donkeys and all the stress disappears and I feel 20 years younger.  There is something about a donkey that gives a person contentment. They teach us how to laugh again.  They are a wonderful addition to a family and can be enjoyed by people of all ages.



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© 2001 Vicki Abbott

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