The Enduring Donkey
Despite popular belief, the donkey is not a native to Ireland at all but probably originated in North Africa and other parts of the Middle East. Large packs were used in Egypt in the period leading up to the building of the great Pyramids. When we see the different sizes, colours and types of donkey, we assume that they have not come from a single source. There are wild asses from both Africa and Asia. Our donkeys are most likely descended from two types;
The Nubian Wild Ass – of about 12hh native to the area between the Mediterranean coast and the Sahara Desert. Nubian asses have a cross but no leg stripes.
The Somali Wild Ass – of about 14hh from further east into the Middle East and east of the Red Sea. Somali asses have no cross but feature prominent leg stripes, almost as marked as those of the zebra.
The mixing of breeds must have occurred when donkeys were used as pack animals on the so-called Silk Road when they carried bales of silk and cartons of spices from the Orient to Western Europe. No single donkey would have been able to make the journey of thousands of miles, so cross breeding was inevitable.