The donkey or ass (Equus africanus asinus) is a domesticated member of the horse family, Equidae. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African wild ass, E. africanus. The donkey has been used as a working animal for at least 5000 years. There are more than 40 million donkeys in the world, mostly in underdeveloped countries, where they are used principally as draught or pack animals. Working donkeys are often associated with those living at or below subsistence levels. Small numbers of donkeys are kept for breeding or as pets in developed countries. In some places, donkeys are milked or raised for meat.

Asses were first domesticated around 3000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world. They continue to fill important roles in many places today. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass is an endangered species. As beasts of burden and companions, asses and donkeys have worked together with humans for millennia.

Literary comment[]

Donkeys appear in numerous Harry Turtledove works, but are rarely relevant to the understanding of any particular story.

Donkey in The Valley-Westside War[]

After the Russian-American War of 1967 set global civilization backward and caused the virtual extinction of the automobile, donkeys and other equine species such as horses reclaimed their position as man's primary method of transportation. It was an honor they probably could have lived without.[1]

Donkey in Videssos[]

During the siege of Sotevag, the Halogai defenders led by Ulror Raska's son were reduced to eating their donkeys. Fortunately, their wizard Kolskegg Cheese-Curd practiced the art of tyromancy, reading futures in the patterns of the curds in cheese. It was from reading donkey cheese that Kolskegg was able to divine the way to escape.[2]

Donkey in The War Between the Provinces[]

The donkey was a species closely related to the unicorn. It looked less impressive than its cousin, as it lacked a horn on its head, and its argumentative temperament made it unsuitable as a mount. Despite this, they were still used in the Detinan Civil War as beasts of burden and to haul supply wagons.

During the Battle of the River of Death, a herd of donkeys broke from their wagons and stampeded towards attacking northerners who mistook them for attacking unicorn riders. The northerners broke off their advance and fled. The southron troops were so pleased, they made the donkeys brevet unicorns, allowing them to graze with other unicorns. General Hesmucet was amused when he learned of this.[3]

Ned of the Forest had trouble taking donkey-riders seriously. A fellow who rode an ass was all too likely to be one as well. Major Marmaduke was a notable example of this.[4]

See also[]


  1. The Valley-Westside War, p. 42.
  2. "A Difficult Undertaking," e.g., 3xT, p. 254, HC.
  3. Sentry Peak, pgs. 281-282, HC.
  4. Advance and Retreat, p. 123.