The history of the donkey is colourful, to say the least. Throughout the past, they have been used as beasts of burden for their strength, temperament, and tolerance for heavy loads. Unfortunately, these desirable traits have sometimes lead to their abuse.
Donkeys were brought to South America and Mexico by Spanish conquistadors in the 16th century, and slowly moved northward. Many stories of the donkey making its mark on the world have been passed through religion. It is believed that God gave the donkey the shadow of the cross, a cross-shaped marking on his back, when this noble beast offered to carry the cross for Christ before the Crucifixion. The donkey is mentioned numerous times in the Bible, as an "ass", derived from the Latin "Equus Asinus".
The donkey really became popular with Queen Victoria. She had three! One, who was called Jacqout, travelled with her abroad. Because of the Royal interest in driving donkeys, it became quite the fashion to have a donkey instead of a horse pulling one's carriage.
Donkeys can live to 50+ years if they have been properly cared for, although the average is 40-45 years. Sadly in developing countries, the average is only 8 years
A group of donkeys is called a "pace".
A male is called a jack, a female is a jennet, and a castrated male is a gelding
There are donkey sanctuaries around the world: Kenya, Ethiopia, Mexico, India, Dutch Antilles, and others throughout Europe, Asia, South America and th USA, the most recent being established in Israel. The largest sanctuary is in England, where, throughout the years, they have dealt with over 10,000 donkeys, mules, and hinnies.
In North America, they act as predator control and guard animals for cattle, sheep, goats, and other farm animals. They stand their ground, protecting their charges against enemies like coyotes or wild dogs. It is not in the nature of the donkey to run in panic, but to stop and assess the situation before acting. The gentlest donkey can be the fiercest protector.