Donkeys may seem like hardy animals, but a scientific study has shown that these big-eared equines don’t do well in cold weather. Before we dive into the weird world of equine winter coat-lengths, let’s first look at some equine terms that you need to be familiar with. Also, they may be useful later on in life when you’re playing trivia or something.

Poitou donkeys of Île-de-Ré

Horses vs Donkeys

Horses and donkeys all fall under the genus Equus, which includes other horse-like animals such as zebras and onagers. Physically, the differences are obvious. Donkeys are shorter with big ears. Horses are taller with small ears. It may be easy to think of these animals like dogs, Rottweiler versus Shih-Tzu or something like that. But all dogs are the same species whereas donkeys and horses are not.

Interspecies Breeding

You can produce viable offspring by crossing two different breeds of dog. All dogs have the same number of chromosomes, 78 total or 39 pairs. In the equine world, horses have 64 chromosomes or 32 pairs and donkeys have 62 chromosomes or 31 pairs. This means if you cross breed them, the resulting offspring will have one unpaired chromosome making the animal sterile and unable to reproduce.

Hinnies vs Mules

Both a hinny and a mule are donkey-horse crosses. Hinnies are a cross between a jenny and a stallion, whereas mules are a cross between a mare and a jack.

  • Jenny = female donkey
  • Stallion = male horse
  • Mare = female horse
  • Jack = male donkey

You’d think hinnies and mules would be the same, but hinnies are actually smaller. This is probably because a jenny has a smaller womb than a mare. Makes sense, right?

Coat Properties

Donkeys do well in warmer climates and due to the fact that they’ve adapted to this type of environment, they don’t grow a winter coat. Horses, on the other hand, have adapted to living in colder climates. If you’ve ever driven by a horse farm in upstate NY in February, you’ll notice all the shaggy animals hanging out in the pasture. Hinnies and mules do grow a winter coat, but not to the degree that horses do.

I Should Care Because…

Why does this all matter? For a few reasons:

  1. If you’re thinking of owning a few donkeys but your farm is somewhere up north, you’ll have to make sure your jacks and jennies stay warm somehow in the winter. I suggest a big donkey jacket, but I think most people just throw a blanket on them.
  2. If you’re teaching kids about thermodynamics and insulation, this is a really fun way to introduce them to the concept of heat dissipation.
  3. It’s always good to know that anything goes when it comes to scientific research. Funding, on the other hand, may be what stops you.

Sad Donkeys

Growing up, I loved Eeyore. After reading this study, I began to think that maybe he wasn’t sad and forlorn. Maybe Eeyore was just perpetually cold and no one ever bothered to ask him why.