Miniature donkeys look in every respect like the familiar full-sized donkey, except that they stand only about 3 feet high. You can find them in a variety of colors, including gray, brown, black, sorrel and frosted spotted white, and they have a distinctive cross-shaped marking on their backs. Miniature donkeys can live as long as 35 years, just like their bigger cousins.
Miniature donkeys originated on the islands of Sicily and Sardinia in the Mediterranean. They are often still referred to as miniature Mediterranean donkeys. The animals were first bred from full-sized donkeys with breeders selecting for small size over many generations.
Miniature donkeys need grain and good quality hay for feed, and must always have access to clean, fresh water. They also benefit from a mineral salt block and trace mineral supplements called 12-12 for equines. Although they do not need as much space as their full-sized cousins, they should have access to pastures for grazing and exercise. The animals are hardy in the cold, but they need a barn or other outbuilding for shelter, especially in very hot or very cold climates. Deworming is necessary every few months, vaccinations are required yearly and regular farrier visits keep mini donkeys' hooves in tip top shape.
Donkeys by nature like company, and miniature donkeys are no different. The best way to keep them is with another miniature donkey, but they can also be kept with other types of grazing animals for companionship, and they will usually become attached to their herd mates. If kept singly, they can suffer from stress and loneliness.
Miniature donkeys are known for their sweet disposition, gentle nature, intelligence and trainability. They are patient and trustworthy with children, and can even be trained as service or therapy animals. They can become very attached to their owners, and are demonstrably affectionate.
The Miniature Donkey Registry was created in 1958 in Nebraska, and is considered the central repository of all information on the breed in the U.S. The registry is now part of the bigger American Donkey and Mule Society (ADMS), based in Lewisville, Texas. Owners with registry, pedigree or stud questions should contact the ADMS. There are many active breeding programs in the U.S.