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(asses), a subgenus of perissodactylous mammals of the genus Equus. Asses differ from true horses in that they have a large head with long ears, narrow hooves, and a thin tail ending in a tuft of long hairs. Wild asses are distributed in Africa and in Southwest, Middle, and Central Asia. They live in small herds in deserts and steppes. Asses feed on grass.
The African wild ass (Equus, or Asinus, africanus) is 100–120 cm high at the withers. It is sandy-gray and has a dark stripe along the backbone and a similar intersecting stripe at the scapulae. The African wild ass is distributed in Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. It is a protected species whose numbers are small. The African wild ass is the ancestor of the domesticated ass, or donkey.
Domesticated asses form two groups of breeds. The first includes small indigenous asses of Africa and Asia (including Kazakhstan, Middle Asia, the Caucasus). Also in this group are large African and Asian asses, such as the Shantung asses of China. The second group of asses are stud breeds used principally to obtain mules. The most valuable stud breeds are the Poitou asses of France, the Catalonian asses of Spain, and American varieties. Indigenous breeds of asses are valued for their strength and endurance; they do not require special feed or maintenance. Asses are used as pack and harness animals. They are surefooted and are capable of travel in mountainous regions.
An ass can carry an average load of 70–80 kg; the animal’s carrying capacity in harness is up to 2.5 tons. Indigenous asses are used for work from the age of two years. They are fed straw mixed with alfalfa or barley. Asses of stud breeds are fed complete rations of hay and concentrated and succulent feeds.
In 1971, the world population of asses was 41.9 million, including 689,000 in Europe, 8.5 million in Asia, 6.8 million in Africa, and 6.7 million in America. In 1972 there were 568,600 asses in the USSR.
REFERENCESSokolov, I. I. Kopytnye zveri (Otriady Perissodactyla i Artiodactyla). Moscow-Leningrad, 1959. (Fauna SSSR: Mlekopitaiushchie, vol. 1, issue 3.)
Zhivotnyi mir, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.
Lakoza, I. I., and V. A. Shchekin. Verbliudovodstvo i osnovy oslovodstva i muloproizvodstva. Moscow, 1964.
I. I. SOKOLOV and G. G. KHITENKOV