Many people ask what is the difference between a donkey and a burro. Burros, asses and even donkeys are pretty much the same thing. They are all Equus asinus.

"Burro" is just the Spanish word for "donkey." Some people make a distinction between the descendents of donkeys introduced into the Americas by the Spanish in the 1500s which they call burros, and donkeys introduced directly from Europe, which they call donkeys. Even people making a distinction between burros and donkeys appear to agree that both, being of the species "asinus," are asses. Jackasses are just "jack asses," or "male asses."

We would however make a distinction between Burros and donkeys, wild and domestic. Burros that have been born and lived in the wild have become incredibly hardy, resourceful, intuitive and are true survivors. They are able to live on very little, with little water and in some states manage to make it through bitter winters digging for food in the deep snow. Considering they are dessert animals this goes a long way to demonstrating their unique development for different environments.

The wild burro is a class of small donkeys with an adult weight ranging between 50 and 186 kilograms (110 and 410 pounds), with a height at the shoulders of around 3 to 4 feet. These animals possess long ears and have a short mane, and their coat colors range from black to brown to grey. The average weight of male burros is 122 kilograms (269 pounds), with that of females being 112 kilograms (247 pounds).

Burros in the U.S.A. tend to be taller and stockier than their counterparts found in Mexico and Central America. Burros are extremely sure-footed, and are able to carry heavy burdens for days on end amidst harsh, arid environments.


Throughout most of the year, wild burros forage throughout the day. During the heat of summer, however, they will usually forage at late evening and early in the morning. These animals are able to survive by feeding on native grasses and forbs, and by browsing on woody plants. They will feed on a wide variety of plant species, including Plantain, Mormon Tea, and Palo Verde. Even though their plant diet supplies a certain amount of water, they also need supplemental water supplies to stay adequately hydrated. They usually select habitats with water bodies within 10 miles of their territories. These hardy animals can survive water losses of as much as 30% of their body weight, and are able to replenish such major losses by way of frenetic drinking episodes in as little as 5 minutes.


Habitat and Range

Burros originated in North Africa, and were introduced into the New World by the newly arrived Spaniards in the 1500s. These animals are often sighted in the deserts of North America today, such as those in the U.S. state of California, where their habitat extends as far east as Lassen County and as far south as Mono County, and stretches further down into and across the border with Mexico. Populations of burros have been also observed in other arid areas of the U.S.A, Mexico, and some central American countries. Burros thrive in habitats with vegetation like alkali desert scrubs, sagebrush, Joshua trees, montane chaparrals, and semi-arid pasturelands. Wildlife biologists believe that the rapid proliferation of the wild burro population poses a potential threat for such native animals as the Bighorn Sheep, who share their habitats and native plants for browsing and grazing with wild burros.



Wild burros are active throughout the year, and are primarily diurnal in nature throughout much of it. In summer, they migrate to riparian areas with smaller home ranges than during other seasons. Their home ranges usually vary between 5 and 70 square kilometers. Males and females have overlapping territories, and males may exhibit territoriality during mating periods in order to access and claim female partners. Unlike wild horses, wild burros do not form family groups, though they may form loosely knit groups whose members temporarily interact to some degree socially. Members of such groups might graze together for a single afternoon, or even for several days, but will finally separate and move on alone. A female and her young one form the strongest social bonds, which might last up to two years in some cases, until they are mature enough to head out on their own.



Wild burros mate all year long, but their peak mating season runs from May through July. The gestation period of these animals lasts roughly 12 months. Hence, a peak in birth rates occurs during the roughly the same period as peak breeding, between May and July as well. Females produce one colt each year, and usually reproduce in alternate years, since breeding and birthing typically occur around the same time. Since the wild burros lack natural predators or competitors within their harsh desert habitat ranges, they can usually survive to live relatively long lives for feral animals. Many colts live to attain sexual maturity, and have a good chance to live as long as their expected lifespans in the wild, which are around 25 years.

(credit World Atlas - animals of North America)


Domestic donkeys can live for over 50 years — in the wild they live from 25-30 years.

Burros are very strong and intelligent — a burro is stronger than a horse of the same size.

Donkeys have an incredible memory — they can recognize areas and other donkeys they were with up to 25 years ago.

Donkey Characteristics

Burros are not easily startled (unlike horses) and have a keen sense of curiosity.

They have a reputation for stubbornness but this is due to their highly developed sense of self preservation. It is difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it sees as contrary to its own best interest or safety. This is why they don’t do well during roundups and most often have to be roped from the back of a horse and taken to the trap.

Donkeys are more independent in their thinking than horses and will reason, then make decisions based on their safety.

Donkeys originate from desert areas of the earth. In the desert environment a donkey is able to hear the call of another donkey 60 miles away, They have far larger ears than horses. Their large ears also help keep them cool.

Because food is scarce in the desert, donkeys utilize 95% of what they eat which means their manure is not a very good fertilizer for land. Their digestive system can break down inedible vegetation and extract moisture from food more efficiently.

They don’t like the rain and being out in it for long periods can damage their health as their fur is not waterproof.

BLM Herd management areas which include wild burros

All of the Arizona HMA’s include wild burros and this is the biggest area that you can find wild donkeys living wild in the Western United States. The town of Oatman AZ has become famous for its wild donkey population who actually reside in the town and have become quite a tourist attraction.

In Oregon there are donkeys on the Warm Springs HMA only.

In California there are donkeys on the Centennial HMA, Twin Peaks, Chemehuevi, Chocolate Mule Mountains, Lee Flat and the Waucoba-Hunter Mountains and the other wild donkey herds are in Nevada. There is also a small herd in Utah in the Muddy Creek and Sinbad HMA.

These wild donkeys are overlooked and not advocated for near as much as the wild horse herds but we would love the numbers raised on the existing smaller AML’s to reflect a healthy genetic diversity moving forward.

There seems to be a perception that feral donkeys can breed out of control but in the USA this cannot be said about most wild herds. The image of the common donkey being a beast of burden and used as a work animals for centuries does nothing to promote them as the asset to the environment that they are. They are culturally and historically important and wonderful animals.

The value of these animals should be more widely appreciated and a better relationship forged between human and donkey.

We at Skydog Sanctuary love our wild (and rescued domestic), donkeys - burros - asses - call them what you will. We call them important.


Millions of donkeys are being killed and their skins sold to China for use in traditional medicine. Demand for donkey hide, which is boiled to produce gelatine – the key ingredient in a medicine called ejiao – has raised the price and the rate of slaughter of the animals. Ejiao can sell for up to £300 per kilo and is used as a blood tonic in Chinese medicine.

Many things associated with Chinese medicine usually have alternatives. With donkey hide, for example, you could use other animal forms of gelatine such as from beef, pork or chicken. For vegetarians, seaweed can be used.

The demand for donkey hide is outstripping supply. Around 1.8m donkey hides are traded per year, while global demand is estimated between 4 to 10m skins. Can you even comprehend that number of donkeys. This is decimating the donkey population of the world and causing a massive decline in their numbers. As well as it being horrifically cruel, inhumane and unnecessary.

source: https://hsi.org.au/newsroom/new-report-names-australia-as-8th-biggest-importer-of-ejiao-a-traditional-chinese-medicine-decimating-donkey-populations



Vinnie was the very very first animal we rescued and have never looked back since.  My first date with my husband Chris was to a sanctuary in Simi Valley to look at a donkey they were advertising.  I had wanted a donkey to keep Elvis company as all the mustangs had formed a herd and wouldn't let him in.  We fell in love with Vinnie and Chris made a donation to the sanctuary and the next day they emailed us to say that they had saved three horses at auction thanks to his donation.  It was the first time I found out about horse auctions and horse slaughter and it started us down a road of saving other horses and eventually to opening Skydog Sanctuary......all thanks to this little donkey.

Vinnie is a flashy red roan donkey with the fluffiest face and Elvis like mutton chops that never disappear even in the height of summer.  We love him x



We found Frankie and Johnny in a kill pen in Texas.  The photograph of the mother donkey gazing at her week-old baby broke our hearts.  The pride shone out of her eyes as she looked at him and as we were saving a mustang from the same kill pen (LOVE) we decided to help them out too.  We had them all taken to Reata Equine Hospital and sadly mama and baby were very sick.  They spent over two months in the hospital with pneumonia and many other respiratory diseases.  Eventually they were ready to leave and came to Malibu where they were loved on by everyone including some pretty amazing VIP's.  They now live at Oregon Skydog x



Cassidy was spotted in a kill pen in Waco Texas when we were rescuing LOVE.  He was standing there in the photo looking so so lost and scared so that was that.  We had some reports of him before he got here about his kicking the vet when she took blood for coggins and he dragged the hauler down the steps at a run as he tried desperately to hold on to his halter.  But we wouldn't trade him for the world.  He is just the funniest, smartest, cheekiest, silliest boy and thinks he is a wild stallion mustang.  When there is danger spotted he leads the herd of horses ten times his size.  He is fearless and has the heart of a lion and oh he is super cute too.  


ZZ the Zonkey

ZZ isn't a mustang but he is so loved by all the staff and volunteers at Skydog.   He was saved from shipping to a kill ranch in Texas - places where people pay money to go and shoot exotic animals.  For fun.  Or Sport.  Not the kind of fun we have here.  The only shooting we do here is with a camera lens and it is glorious to see ZZ in all his glory running around up and down hills.  He is a bit of a jerk, he runs horses twice his size off feed, and if they won't move he turns and kicks more times per second than anything I have ever seen.  But he never seems to land one - it is just for show.  

He is all bluff and bluster and we call him the hooligan but he is a fantastic horse exerciser as he has the energy of a dog and never stops chasing and running.  He is halter broke and I have even seen video of him being ridden but those days are over and he is free to live out his life here.

lady betty & Boop


When we were rescuing Swayze and Priscilla from a killpen in Colorado I kept noticing that in every photo of them there was a little pair of hooves, or two long ears, or a donkey’s ass. And finally I called the lot and asked them if there were any donkeys and they said there was an older Jenny and a miniature John. Well these must have been the most clever donkeys in the world as this lot didn’t advertise the donkeys - so I guess these two were like “stand with the horses”. And that is how we spotted them.

SO a Skydog Tradition of saving a donkey who needed out began.

That was a rough haul. Swayze went down in the trailer and had to see a vet and these two donkeys were together in the lot, in the trailer and finally in the barn when they arrived with us for just a couple of days. Tyler was tiny and Lady Betty looked 100 years old and to tell you the truth I didn’t really think it was physically possible for them to “get together”. BUT our vet told me later, where there’s a will there’s a way, and 12 months later, almost to the day, along came Baby Boop. You live and learn and mistakes happen. But what a gorgeous, fluffy, adorable and welcome addition to our herd she was. Oh Boop, I still to this day don’t understand what hill your papa climbed up on to make you happen but thank goodness he did xxx


These three gorgeous formerly wild donkeys were found at a livestock auction in California about to be bought by the kill buyer that frequents the place looking for cheap horses and donkeys to sell.  People don't eat donkeys but their hides have become in great demand particularly in China where they have been importing millions of donkeys annually to slaughter.  

Paulie, Red and Rose are not wild but not tame either.  They are friendly enough except when you try to catch them but they let you pet on them and will eat out of your hand.  The two girls, Rosie and Red, have BLM brands and Paulie isn't branded but may well be the son of one of the Jenny's as they are very bonded. We adore our snow donkeys and they are hardier and stronger and do better in the winter temperatures than some of the other domestic ones we have saved. Born to be wild. And now they are x


…A few weeks after we rescued the BLM three donkeys another branded BLM donkey landed at the same auction. I thought she must be from the same group and we saved her and brought her home. When she finished quarantine and we introduced them they had quite obviously never met. But after months of persistent requests to join the herd they let her in. Possibly one of the saddest before photos ever taken. Such a sad, scared, upset and bewildered donkey. And now she is the cutest, friendliest and most affectionate girl. Truly one of my favorites. If such a thing is allowed xx

Looking good Roxy girl. You’ve come a long way baby ::)


Well Tyler was the other donkey we saved with Lady Betty from the killpen in Colorado and the father of little Boop. This photo is all I saw of him but who on earth could say no to that face. He was always friendly from the day he arrived and he went to stay at Bend Equine within a few days of arriving to be gelded and all the girls there fell in love with him. He gets chubby in the summer so we have to take him off the grass when it greens up. Otherwise he would really have Dad bod. Nothing is better than a cuddle from Tyler x

He now lives out with the entire herd and luckily has lost a lot of weight running the hills with his herd. Tyler, Lady Betty and Little Boop. Our love for donkeys is complete.


JOE pesci

We had the haul arranged and paid for and suddenly up popped this little boy. He looked sad, lost and we had room. What are you going to do? Take him that’s what. And thank God we did. Within a day or so he looked a little sickly so our amazing hauler stopped at a vet hospital and we caught his pneumonia just in time. He has been at the hospital for a couple of weeks and will be back to Malibu soon. Keep a look out for this wonderful boy’s new life to begin x

Joe Pesci. Thank you for fighting and for hanging in to live another day here at Skydog. Clever little boy didn’t want to go to Oregon and be part of a herd. He wanted to come to Skydog Malibu and be a movie star donkey. I have a feeling this boy will win a lot of hearts in Southern California x

al pacino & robert deniro

Well you can pat yourselves on the back for this save. When we said yes to taking Redford and Eastwood you all rallied to ask us to take a donkey who was the only one listed on the same page at the lot. We called to pay for him and they told us there was actually another one who had been paid for but nobody had come to pick up. WHAAAT. So we collected up these two donkeys and Marlene our hauler said yes to fitting them on board. Hauling donkeys in the dead of winter out of a killpen is always a risk. But leaving them means certain death. Either on the lot within days as they suffer greatly and go down quickly from respiratory diseases. OR they get put on to trailers to meet a terrible death in Mexico.

Instead these two jumped on the freedom bus outta there. They still need to be gelded but we are letting them settle before that next step of their lives. We have always named out donkeys after gangsters and these guys are fighting tough - so DeNiro and Pacino welcome to the gang.

bonnie & Clyde

These two angels were rescued at a livestock auction. They were unhandled and shy and fearful. Clyde has remained pretty nervous and doesn’t come close but Bonnie will come grab treats from you if you stay still. We manage to get them both for feet twice a year but the rest of the time we just let them live their own lives with their best friends Anselm and Adeline.

What an adorable pair. They are mini mules which is kind of the same as a mini hinny like cassidy just the other way around. The only difference is whether the boy was a donkey or a horse. We don’t care they are cute either way xxx