The Official NMDA Miniature Mediterranean Donkey
(Reproduced with permission of The
National Miniature Donkey Association)
THE NATIONAL MINIATURE DONKEY ASSOCIATION
The National Miniature Donkey Association (NMDA) is a nonprofit, membership
supported organization established in 1990. The goals of the Association
are to protect the Miniature Donkey breed, to educate owners and breeders
on care and management and to promote the breed. The official publication
of NMDA is Asset which is provided to its members quarterly. The Board
of Directors is guided by the official By-Laws to implement the Association's
NMDA works cooperatively with The
American Donkey and Mule Society which presently administers the Miniature
Donkey Registry. Bea Langfeld of Danby Farms, Omaha, Nebraska founded the
Miniature Donkey Registry in 1958. This Registry is the original and most
complete registry of Miniature Donkeys in the world.
THE NMDA BREED STANDARD
The NMDA Breed Standard is intended to describe the breed and assist
breeders in the selection of stock. This Standard is a working document
that will evolve as our knowledge and understanding of the Miniature Donkey
grows. In developing a Breed Standard NMDA included a range of qualities
that are necessary for the future integrity of the breed. NMDA is committed
to maintaining this integrity in future revisions. Many breed organizations
have attempted to reach an ideal animal with too much emphasis on only
one quality or fad such as size or color. The results have been loss of
function with reproductive, birthing, conformation and temperament problems.
This Standard is meant to assist people interested in the stewardship
of the Miniature Donkey, with the final purpose of passing on healthy,
vigorous and fully functional animals for the generations that follow.
THE HISTORY OF THE MINIATURE DONKEY
Miniature Donkeys originated in the Mediterranean area of Northern Africa
in ancient times and more recently from the Islands of Sicily and Sardinia
off the west coast of Italy. Over time the distinctions between the two
island populations blurred and they are now considered one breed properly
called Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys. They are simply referred to as
Miniature Donkeys in North America.
Purebred Miniature Donkeys in the Mediterranean area are rapidly disappearing,
as the small donkeys are being mixed with larger breeds. For this reason,
the Donkeys in North America have global genetic value. Fortunately, numbers
in the U.S. and Canada are strong and are increasing since the first Donkeys
arrived in the United States in the early 1900's. Approximately 2,179 animals
were registered in 1995 and the current population is estimated between
17,000 and 20,000 in the U.S.
The Miniature Donkey is a compact, well-proportioned animal with a sweet,
sociable disposition. At maturity (3 years), it is able to pull a cart
or carry a pack as it did in its native Sicily and Sardinia.
The Miniature Donkey community should strive to combine as many positive
qualities as possible in each jennet and jack pairing to ensure the progeny
will be excellent representatives of the breed.
Although every Miniature Donkey is not breeding quality, all Miniature
Donkeys have a role to play as endearing companions and as public ambassadors
in schools, fairs, parades and nursing homes.
The NMDA encourages breeders to help preserve the structure and character
of the Miniature Donkey breed by keeping form and function a priority in
their breeding programs. Regardless of whether a Miniature Donkey is selected
for breeding, show or work purposes, a well balanced animal should have
proportions and conformation that bear directly on the health and function
of that individual. Miniature Donkey breeders and owners need to understand
the practical reasons behind the Breed Standard, keeping in mind conformation
is a combination of bone structure, muscle type, body fat and fitness.
THE BREED STANDARD
This Standard is written with the mature three year old in mind. Bear
in mind that age may affect comparisons with this Standard. It is desirable
to choose breeding stock at maturity.
The Miniature Donkey should be attractive, sound, strong and sturdy.
The animal should be well-balanced as the various parts blend together
in a nicely coupled, compact picture. It should have an alert expression
and "presence;" Jennets should look feminine and slightly more
refined and jacks should be relatively stocky and masculine. A maximum
height of 36" at the withers, measured at 3 years, is accepted by
the Miniature Donkey Registry. Overall bone should be strong and in proportion
to the size of the Donkey and muscle development.
Overall balance in conformation and adequate bone is necessary for work,
such as carrying packs and pulling carts efficiently.
The head should be in proportion to the Donkey. A shorter head is preferred
to a longer one. The Donkey should have a broad forehead and width between
the eyes. The muzzle should taper with firm, even lips and large, open
nostrils. The profile should be straight or slightly dished. Eyes are ideally
large, prominent, dark, clear, with symmetry and a kind expression. Ears
are preferred long, but in proportion to the head, parallel, set upright
and carried alertly. The head should be well-balanced and carried in an
A large head that is not in proportion to the body may indicate dwarfism,
which is to be avoided. In a desert environment large ears were adapted
to help cool the body and to assist hearing over long distances. Eyes that
are small, light colored or dull may indicate poor vision or ill health.
Wide-set, prominent eyes allow for wider field of vision. Large, open nostrils
allow for optimum breathing with the ability to take an ample supply of
oxygen. Drooping lips can be a sign of ill health or age; protruding or
receding jaw can interfere with eating and may indicate uneven bite.
At maturity (after the third-year teeth have erupted) the teeth of the
upper jaw should meet evenly with the teeth of the lower jaw - not overshot
("Parrot Mouth") or undershot ("Monkey Mouth"). Up
to a 1/4" variation from an even bite (extreme limit) is accepted
for registration into the Miniature Donkey Registry.
A good bite is important for grazing, chewing, digestion, nutrition
and ultimately longevity.
The neck should be strong, straight and in proportion to the head and
body. It should not be too short and thick, or too long and thin or weak
Rationale: A short, wide neck does not allow for good control under
the bit while driving. A strong, proportionate neck will also allow the
animal to hold its head up alertly .
The body should have balance and symmetry. Each part should blend together
in a well proportioned, pleasing picture.
Donkeys' shoulders are more upright than that of a horse, but should
not be excessively straight. An ideal shoulder angulation is approximately
45° - 50°.
A 45° - 50° shoulder angle gives the Donkey the ability to carry
weight and the power to pull.
There should be a deep, generous girth. The ribs should be nicely rounded
Rationale: A generous girth allows room for organs and expansion of
the lungs during respiration. If also gives width of chest and spare between
the front legs.
The back should be strong, compact and level with a slight curve at
the withers. The back should not dip or sway. The top line should be gently
sloped from the withers to a short, level back and loin and then to a moderately
long and sloping croup and well-placed tail.
A good top line adds to balance and general appearance. Backs which
are too long or too short look unbalanced, awkward and contribute to poorly
The loins, which are formed by the lumbar vertebrae, should be short-coupled,
wide and well covered. Loins should lead into a moderately long and gently
Loins which are too long weaken the back and interfere with the transfer
of power from hind legs forward. Too much distance between the ribs and
point of hip contributes to an awkward, unbalanced appearance and renders
the animal's movement less efficient.
CROUP AND RUMP
As compared to a horse, the rump of a Donkey has a sharper, more sloping
croup. The pelvic bones are at a higher angle, therefore the Donkey croup
is higher and rump narrower. The rump should be strong and gently sloping.
There should be good length from point of hip to point of buttock.
The hindquarters provide most of the Donkey's impulsion and they act
as pistons to thrust the animal forward. A thin, "Goose Rump"
can indicate an animal is in poor condition, may appear out of proportion
and may reflect weak conformation.
Legs should be squarely set and straight when viewed from all angles,
with adequate bone in proportion to the animal to provide strength and
balance. There should be space between the front legs for good width of
chest providing ample room for lung expansion. The rear legs should have
enough space to move forward following the front legs without rubbing at
A working animal needs strong, straight, correct legs to be efficient
and to prevent injuries, strain or lameness Movement which is choppy stiff
or sluggish could be a sign or ill health or poor con formation. Animals
that have significant 'Toeing Out' or 'Cow Hocking' will break down more
The hooves should be even and of a uniform shape. A Donkey's hoof is
narrower, more oval and stands more upright than a horse. Hooves should
be well trimmed.
Poorly shaped or uneven hooves can cause strain, lameness and clumsiness.
Movement should be active, smooth, straight, free flowing and should
cover the ground evenly with good length of stride. Each foot should be
lifted clear off the ground and carried forward in a straight line.
Maximum height of 36" at the withers measured at 3 years has already
been established by the Miniature Donkey Registry. A minimum height of
30" is strongly recommended by NMDA.
A minimum height has not yet been determined, but a recommendation has
been made to prevent loss of potential reproductive fitness including foaling
difficulties. Small size may also adversely affect conformation and balance.
A Donkey should be in good weight with ribs just palpated under the
coat without appearing "Ribby". A well-muscled animal will show
Rationale: An animal in poor condition - either underweight or obese
- is difficult to evaluate and can often appear dull and lethargic. Signs
of poor condition may indicate or contribute to ill health. An animal in
poor condition, even if structurally sound, will give a poor impression.
The Donkey should be gentle, loving and responsive. He should be friendly,
kind, trusting and willing to please.
Rationale: The Miniature's temperament is much of their appeal. These
qualities are well documented in the earliest references in history.
Breeders need to expect reproductive fitness and efficiency in their
1. The ability to conceive.
2. The ability to carry a foal to term.
3. The ability to give birth without assistance.
4. The ability to nurture a foal.
5. The ability to produce adequate milk.
6. The ability to rebreed.
The above characteristics may be affected by husbandry and/ or environment
offered to the animal. Any jennet, however, which demonstrates a repeated
problem in any of these areas may not have the reproductive fitness desirable
for the breed. Breeders must plan for good reproductive performance from
all their breeding stock.
Lack of reproductive fitness in jacks is demonstrated in low fertility
WEAKNESSES IN BREEDING ANIMALS
All Donkeys have some weaknesses, but the degree and number of
weaknesses and the cumulative effect on function and reproductive health
is what we need to keep in mind. Any animal with severe or multiple
weaknesses should not be selected as breeding stock.
1. "Roman Nose" - Convex profile of the head. Coarseness of
the head and neck.
2. Short, thick neck and low head carriage.
3 "Ewe Neck" - Thin, concave, weak neck.
4. "Roach Back" - Convex back. Long, weak back; sway back
5. Short, high or flat croup, hip too short (no depth of hip).
6. "Goose Rump" - Steep, sloping croup, narrow rump.
7. Insufficient bone in proportion to animal.
8. "Cow Hocked" - The hocks of the back legs turn inward (toward)
each other when viewed from behind.
9. "Bow Legs" - The hocks of the back legs turn outward (away)
from each other when viewed from behind.
10. "Stands Close Behind" -The back legs are too close together.
This is common in a narrow-bodied, flat-ribbed animal.
11. "Sickle Hocked" - The back legs stand in and under the
animal when viewed from the side.
12. "Camped Behind" - The back legs are set too far back behind
the body when viewed from the side.
13. "Splay Footed" - Hooves of the front legs are turned outward
and away from each other. This is common in narrow chested animals.
14. "Pigeon Toed" - Hooves of the front legs are turned inward
and toward each other.
15. "Standing Under In Front" - The front legs stand in and
under the animal when viewed from the side.
16. "Camped In Front" - The front legs are set too far in
front of the body when viewed from the side.
17. "Parrot Mouth" - Upper teeth extend out beyond lower teeth
- Overshot Bite.
"Monkey Mouth" - Lower teeth extend out beyond upper teeth
- Undershot Bite.
Up to 1/4" variation from an even bite (extreme limit) is accepted
for registration into the Miniature Donkey Registry.
FAULTS NOT ACCEPTABLE IN BREEDING ANIMALS
Animals with any one of the following faults should not be used for
breeding. These faults are undesirable and should not be perpetuated.
A mature jack with one or both testes undescended into the scrotum after
2 years is called a cryptorchid. Cryptorchid males should be gelded.
A dwarfed animal has an overall stunted, thick-set appearance. They
can have multiple deformities in the legs with large, coarse and knobby
joints or cannons short and stumpy. They have disproportionate heavy heads,
usually carried low. Dwarfism traits are unacceptable for breeding.
3. EXTREME "COW HOCKS"
Cow Hocks that hinder the movement, and therefore the function of an
4 . EXTREME "PARROT MOUTH"/"MONKEY MOUTH"
Teeth that miss an even bite by more than 1/4" affect the good
condition and health of an individual, and eventually the longevity of
NOTES ON THE BREED STANDARD
There may be changes from a foal coat to a mature coat color. A clearer
idea of what the mature coat will be is to look at the color of a foal's
hair close to the body or on the head around the eyes. The Miniature Donkey
Registry requests registrations to be updated after an individual's third
birthday providing mature height, one clear photo of each side, and notification
of any changes in markings or coat color.
When an animal is being evaluated for purposes of the show ring or breeding
on the farm, coat color or pattern should be considered "invisible"
as a selection factor and subordinate to characteristics of conformation.
The Miniature Donkey Registry recognizes the following coat colors:
Gray-Dun; Gray, Black or Red Roan; True Gray; Black; Albino-White; Sorrel;
Bay; Brown; Spotted; Few Spot White (spotted); Unusual Colors
The Miniature Donkey Registry does not use Chocolate, Pink or other
coat color descriptions. For more detailed descriptions of the above coat
colors contact the Miniature Donkey Registry, c/o American Donkey and Mule
Society, 2901 N. Elm St., Denton, Texas 76201.
Albinoism is a congenital deficiency characterized by complete lack
of pigment including the iris of the eyes which are pink. It is a recessive
trait requiring both parents to carry this gene.
While most of an individual's mature height is attained during its first
year, an individual is not considered mature in height and strength of
bone until three years.
This Standard is written with the mature three year old in mind. Age
may affect comparisons with this Standard. It is desirable to choose breeding
stock at maturity.
A Donkey's age at three years is calculated from the actual birth date.
Pedigree is important in selecting the best possible stock for breeding.
The original imported Miniature Donkey stock had a relatively small gene
pool so some inbreeding was inevitable. Breeders should try to avoid inbreeding
by keeping pedigrees and selecting pairings that are not too closely related.
Inbreeding can cause problems with conformation, fertility, hardiness and
The Miniature Donkey Registry c/o American Donkey and Mule Society 2901
N. Elm, Denton, Texas 76201 (817) 382-6845
PAMPHLETS AND ARTICLES
Sewell, Sybil E.,"The Donkey Care and Feeding",Alberta Agriculture,
Edmonton, Alberta, 1990 Les Burwash, Alberta Agriculture, Horse Industry
Branch Bag Service #l, Ceirdrie, Alberta, Canada T4B 2C1(403) 948-8532
Taylor, Allison and Gibson, Cheryl, "The Sum of the Parts: A Functional
Approach To Longears' Conformation" Cheryl Gibson, 1241 10 Concession
West, RR 3, Puslinch, Ontario, Canada NOB 2JO (905) 659-7223
"American Donkey and Mule Society, Members, Judges and Inspectors
Guide to Judging and Donkey and Mule Conformation", HeeHaw Book Service,
American Donkey & Mule Society, 2901 N. Elm, Denton, Tx, 76201 (817)
MAGAZINES AND NEWSLETTERS
The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy News, American Livestock
Breeds Conservancy P.O. Box 477, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312 (919) 542-5704
Asset, quarterly publication by National Miniature Donkey Association
6450 Dewey Rd., Rome, N.Y. 13440 (315) 336-0154
The Brayer, bi-monthly publication by American Donkey and Mule
Society, 2901 N. Elm, Denton, Texas 76201 (817) 382-6845
Donkey & Mule News, quarterly publication by Canadian Donkey
and Mule Association, Jan Sterritt, Cedar Sands Farm, RR 10, Brampton,
Ontario, Canada L6V 3N2 (905) 455-8439
The Horse Your Guide To Equine Health Care, monthly publication
by The Blood Horse, Inc. PO Box 4680, Lexington, Ky, 40544-4680
Berry, Christine and Kokas, Joanne, Donkey Business II. A Guide for
Raising, Training and Showing Donkeys, Off and Running Print Management
Hutchins, Paul and Betsy, The Definitive Donkey A Textbook on the
Modern Ass, HeeHaw Book Service
Morris, Dorothy, Looking After A Donkey , Oxford University Press
(Compiled by) Svendsen, Elisabeth, The Professional Handbook of The
Donkey, published by the Donkey Sanctuary, Sovereign Printing Group,
The above books may be ordered through HeeHaw Book Service, The American
Donkey & Mule Society, 2901 N. Elm, Denton, Tx, 76201 48171 382-6845
Sponenberg, D. Phillip and Christman, Carolyn J., A Conservation
Breeding Handbook, The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy, P.O.
Box 477, Pittsboro, N.C. 27312, 1995
The National Miniature Donkey Association Breed Standard Committee wishes
to thank many dedicated and knowledgeable individuals interested in Miniature
Donkeys. Their expertise and input in this document was invaluable. The
following organizations also lent their support, ideas and encouragement:
The American Donkey and Mule Society, The American Livestock Breeds Conservancy,
Canadian Donkey and Mule Society and Good Samaritan Donkey Sanctuary, Australia.
NMDA BREED STANDARD COMMITTEE:
Ellen Dahlstet, Lynn Gattari, Jane Savage
©1996 All Rights Reserved, National Miniature Donkey Assn., 6450
Dewey Road Rome, New York 13440