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hoofed, herbivorous mammal of the genus Equus, closely related to the horsehorse,
hoofed, herbivorous mammal now represented by a single extant genus, Equus. The term horse commonly refers only to the domestic Equus caballus and to the wild Przewalski's horse.
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. It is distinguished from the horse by its small size, large head, long ears, and small hooves. There are two living species: Equus hemonius, the Asian ass, and E. asinus, the African ass. The latter species includes the domesticated variety, E. asinus asinus, commonly known as the donkey. A male ass is called a jackass and a female, a jenny. Wild asses are swift desert animals that may attain speeds of up to 40 mi (60 km) per hr. They live in herds of up to 1,000 animals.

The Asian Ass

The Asian wild ass typically has a sandy-colored coat with lighter-colored legs and belly, a short erect black mane, a black spinal stripe, and a black tail tuft. Its neigh is shrill. Different races of this species vary in size, but all are smaller than the African ass. They were once widely distributed across Asia, but they have been crowded out of their grazing lands by domestic livestock and have been hunted for their flesh and hides. Each race is now restricted to a very limited territory. Among them are the Persian ass, or onageronager
or Persian wild ass,
wild ass of central Asia, Equus hemonius onager. One of the several races of Asian wild ass (E. hemonius), it formerly ranged widely across S Russia, Iran, and Afghanistan.
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, of central Asia; the Mongolian ass, or kulan, of NE Asia; the Tibetan ass, or kiang, presently the most numerous Asian wild ass; and the Indian ass, or ghorkhar. All are considered endangered, and the continued survival of the onager and the kulan is particularly threatened. The Syrian wild ass, of SW Asia, is probably already extinct.

African Asses and Donkeys

The two wild races of the African species, called Nubian and Somali wild asses, are becoming rare. They are found in the mountains and deserts of NE Africa. The African ass averages about 4 1-2 ft (135 cm) in shoulder height; it is grayish in color, with longer ears and mane than the Asian ass, and with a characteristic loud, harsh bray. Its descendant, the donkey, is the oldest domestic beast of burden; it is believed to have been domesticated in Egypt by c.4000 B.C. A variety of the Asian ass was used in ancient Mesopotamia but did not survive as a domestic animal; all modern domestic donkeys are descended from the African species.

The donkey is still used as a pack and draft animal. Although not as swift or powerful as the horse, it is strong for its size and has great powers of endurance. Donkeys are more surefooted than horses in mountainous country and are cheaper to maintain, as they feed on dry scrub. They may live up to 47 years, about twice as long as a horse. In some regions the donkey is crossbred with the horse to produce a mulemule,
hybrid offspring of a male donkey (see ass) and a female horse, bred as a work animal. The name is also sometimes applied to the hinny, the offspring of a male horse and female donkey; hinnies are considered inferior to mules.
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The donkey was once widely used in Mexico and the SW United States, where it was known by its Spanish name of burro. A large population of feral donkeys (wild descendants of domesticated animals) now exists in the deserts of that region. Feral donkeys are also found in the Old World, where they have given rise to some confusion about the number of true wild asses left in existence.


Asses are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Perissodactyla, family Equidae.

What does it mean when you dream about an ass?

An animal that signifies hard work and extreme stubbornness, the ass is also associated with stupidity.


(vertebrate zoology)
Any of several perissodactyl mammals in the family Equidae belonging to the genus Equus, especially E. hemionus and E. asinus.


Balaam’s ass
ass which rebukes Balaam who then blesses the Israelites. [O.T.: Numbers 22:22–35]
Bottom, Nick
oaf upon whom Puck fixes ass’s head. [Br. Lit.: Midsummer Night’s Dream]
Sancho’s ass. [Span. Lit.: Don Quixote]
Democratic Party
donkey; symbol of Democratic Party in U.S. politics. [Am. Culture: Misc.]
Golden Ass, The
Lucius, transformed into donkey, observes foibles of mankind. [Rom. Lit.: Benét, 44]
for judging Pan winner of flute contest, his ears are changed to ass’s ears. [Gk. Myth.: Leach, 83]
Pinocchio and Lampwick
naughtiness causes them to sprout donkey’s ears and tails. [Ital. Lit.: Pinocchio]


1. either of two perissodactyl mammals of the horse family (Equidae), Equus asinus (African wild ass) or E. hemionus (Asiatic wild ass). They are hardy and sure-footed, having longer ears than the horse
2. the domesticated variety of the African wild ass; donkey