In spite of the importance of mules and donkeys to the economies of many developing countries, knoweldge of their reproductive pattern remains fragmentary. The attitude that all equines are similar, which prevailed for a long time, is false. In addition, some of the well known breeds of donkeys such as the Poitou, Catalonian and Zamorano-Leones breeds are in danger of extinction (Tibary and Bakkoury, 1994; Dare et al, 1998; Folch et al, 1998; Jordana et al, 1999; Serres et al, 2002; Tibary et al, 2006).
The objective of this chapter is to review current knowledge in donkey reproduction as well as their use for mule production. The chapter describes:
- Female reproduction including pregnancy
- Male reproduction including sexual behaviour and in-hand breeding
- Artificial breeding
- Reproductive disorders.
In popular and scientific literature the female donkey is often referred to as 'the donkey mare', 'jenny' or 'jennet'. The male donkey is referred to as the 'donkey stallion', 'jack' or 'jackass'. There is some confusion on the use of the term jenny and jennet, as some may use them for the female mule (a cross between a horse stallion and a donkey mare). For the sake of consistency, the terms 'jack' and 'jenny' will be used throughout this chapter to refer to the male donkey and the female donkey respectively, while the term 'mare' and 'stallion' will be reserved for the horse genders.