Can Donkeys Reproduce?

If you are someone that is interested in animals, then something that you might have wondered about is whether or not donkeys have the ability to reproduce. Even though there is a vast population of donkeys today, there are still people that would argue that they cannot reproduce. 

We aim to clear up some of this confusion, as there is valid context to both of the arguments as to whether donkeys can reproduce making it much easier to understand where all of the confusion comes from. 

The question of whether or not donkeys can reproduce is something that we will be exploring in this article, so you can finally get the answers that you have been looking for. Just keep reading to find out more.

Can Donkeys Reproduce?

Yes, donkeys can reproduce, as otherwise, their population would not still be growing. The fact that donkeys can’t reproduce is actually a common misconception, and you might even notice that you can’t even type ‘donkeys can reproduce’ without autocorrect trying to change it to can’t. 

Donkeys, just like many other mammals, have been blessed with the ability to reproduce, which is why there are currently more than 40 million donkeys in the world. So, the idea that they cannot reproduce is nothing more than a myth. myth 

How Are Donkeys Able To Reproduce?

Donkeys actually reproduce in the same way that other similar animals, like horses and zebras, do. One male donkey and one willing female will have to mate during the estrus cycle in order to be able to reproduce.

A female donkey will usually be pregnant for around 12 months, but the gestation period can vary from 11 to 14 months. They will typically give birth to a single foal.

It is very rare for a female donkey to carry twins, and only around 1.7% of donkey pregnancies will result in the birth of twins. Even so, it is very unlikely for both foals to survive, and they do only 14% of the time. 

In general, their conception rate is also quite low, much lower than horses, for example. Female donkeys will usually come into heat within 9 or 10 days of giving birth, but their fertility will remain low.

It is also likely that the reproductive tract has not yet returned to normal, which is why it is usual to wait around one or two more oestrous cycles before they will rebreed.

Female donkeys are also very protective of their foals, which is why some of them will not come into estrus while they have a foal at their side.

Due to the time that passes during the rebreeding stage and the length of gestation, female donkeys will have less than one foal per year. This is why it is not expected from donkey breeders to obtain a foal every year. However, they may instead plan for 3 foals in 4 years.

Something that you might not have known is that donkeys can also interbreed with other members of the Equidae family, and they are even commonly interbred with horses.

The hybrid between a male donkey and a mare is a mule, which is often valued as a working and riding animal in lots of different countries.

There are also some large donkey breeds like the Asino di Martina Franca, the Baudet du Poitou, and the Mammoth Jack which are solely raised for mule production.

The hybrid between a stallion and a female donkey is called a hinny, but this is much less common. Just like other interspecies hybrids, mules and hinnies are usually sterile, which means that they are unable to reproduce.

Interestingly, donkeys can also breed with zebras, and this offspring is called a zonkey, although they do also go by other names.

So, it is not donkeys that are unable to reproduce, it is the offspring that is created through inter breeding. This means that mules, hinnies, and zonkeys are not able to reproduce, which is likely where the donkey breeding myth stems from. 

Interbreeding Donkeys

It is highly likely that the idea that donkeys cannot reproduce actually comes from the face that hinnies, mules, and zonkeys cannot reproduce.

In order to understand the concept of these animals not being able to reproduce, it is important to be aware of where they come from. So, we will simplify things below.

Mules are the outcome of a female horse and a male donkey breeding. Zonkeys are the result of a zebra and a donkey breeding together. Finally, a hinnie is the outcome of a female donkey and a male horse breeding. 

Mules are often thought to be donkeys, but they are not purely a donkey, as they were the outcome of interbreeding between female horses and male donkeys. This is something that is really important to understand. 

A male horse and a female donkey can also be bred in order to reproduce, but obtaining a mule from a female horse and a male donkey is much easier.

The main reason why donkeys and horses are brought together to reproduce is that they are stronger, hardier animals that are generally easier to keep than horses.

You should also know that zonkeys are also well-known as zedonks, zebronky, zebadonk, and debras. Just like mules and hinnies, they also do not possess the ability to reproduce.

However, they are much harder to mistake for a donkey as half of their bodies will look like a donkey, whereas the other half will feature prominent zebra stripes.

Finally, donkeys and mules may be similar, but they are two different animals. Mules will share some of the same characteristics of a donkey, but they are instead a perfect blend of both the horse and the donkey.

Why Can’t Mules, Hinnies, And Zonkeys Reproduce?

The reason why mules, hinnies, and zonkeys are unable to reproduce is that while all of these animals have sex organs, they are actually also infertile. This means that they are able to mate with other animals, but they will not be able to produce any offspring.

Zonkeys, mules, and hinnies are all crossbreeds that are sterile. This is because they cannot produce either eggs or sperm as their chromosomes do not match. This makes it impossible for them to have babies.

What Is The Purpose Of Zonkeys, Mules, And Hinnies?

Due to the fact that neither of these animals can reproduce, you might be left wondering why they are even created in the first place.

The reason that horses, donkeys, and zebras are still being interbred is that their offspring can be used as pack or riding animals. They can pretty much be used for any other purpose except from breeding. 

If you are wondering how the mule population is still thriving, it is not due to two mules reproducing. Instead, it is due to the fact that donkeys and horses are being bred more often, leading to more mules being produced.

Here is where things get even trickier. Male mules are generally completely infertile, but female mules are what is called subfertile.

This means that they are not completely infertile. Because of this, the female mules can be paired with either a male donkey or horse, and it is possible for them to produce eggs and offspring. However, it is aso quite a rare occurrence.

The males mules are mostly completely infertile due to the fact that their chromosomes do not segregate well.

So, the reason for their infertility is their low sperm count. In very rare cases, there have been reports of fertile mules. Although, nobody knows how true these cases are. The chances of a mule producing offspring are extremely low, if at all. 

The different number of chromosomes that mules have is what makes them infertile. The horse has 64 chromosomes, whereas the donkey has 62.

This means that the outcome of donkeys and horse breeding is a mule with 32 chromosomes that come from the horse, and 31 chromosomes that come from the donkey.

All together, this means that the mule will have 63 chromosomes. This difference in the number of chromosomes is what makes the mules infertile. 

Due to these combined characteristics and differences in the number of chromosomes, they are regarded as “mules”.

What You Need To Know About Mules

Essentially, mules are the outcome of selective breeding, as they are a result of conscious crossbreeding. They do not mate naturally in order to produce sterile offspring, but they are sometimes paired by humans in order to create the strong and hardy creature that they desire to use them as riding or pack animals.

The horses and donkeys that are used to living separately will usually need to be paired up, but the horses and donkeys that are living in the wild will not need any human influence to mate.

Mules have actually been bred for thousands of years, and the first mule was bred by George Washington in 800 BC.

The tradition of breeding horses and donkeys in order to obtain mules is still being continued because they are able to survive on poor food, they can walk on paths that donkeys are unable to, and they can carry the burden much better.

As well as all of this, they are the cheapest type of riding animal.

Some other facts about mules that you might be interested to learn about are:

  • Mules live longer than horses, usually up to 50 years of age
  • Mules are tougher and less sensitive than horses
  • Mules don’t need high-grade food to survive
  • Mules Will  guard the farm animals the same way as donkeys
  • Mules are able to endure heat better
  • Mules can survive longer without water in comparison to horses
  • Mules have got a strong sense of preservation
  • Mules are bred for their remarkable agility and stamina

How Can You Tell The Difference Between Donkeys And Mules

It is pretty clear that the majority of people that falsely believed that donkeys were unable to reproduce were actually mistaking mules for donkeys.

Once you know how to tell them apart, you will never make this mistake again. They do look quite similar, but there are also lots of things that make them different.  Mules can be identified quite easily by their short and thick heads, thin limbs, long ears, short mane, and small narrow hooves. 

The History Of Mules

Interestingly, mules have actually been kept and raised by the army in the past, and they have been domesticated for quite some time. During their time in the army, they would be used to pull heavier field guns, transport supplies, and as mobile firing platforms for small cannons.

Throughout the second half of the 20th century, the trend of using them as a means of transportation only became increasingly popular. Even today, they are still being used as a means of transportation, although there are many that disagree with this use of animals. 

Due to the fact that mules and hinnies get the characteristics of both of their parents, even if they were not sterile, they are not true to any of the parent forms either.


Now that you have read this article, you will understand that the idea of donkeys not being able to reproduce is completely false.

Donkeys are more than able to reproduce, and it is a mule that is not able to. It is easy to understand where this confusion comes from if you were to look at a mule and a donkey side by side, as they do look similar.

However, they do have some differences that make it easier to tell them apart, and now you know what they are. Mules have a different number of chromosomes, which is what makes them sterile, and while they can mate, they will not be able to reproduce.

The reason that they are still being bred is that they are useful animals to put to work and they are low maintenance. They are most commonly used for the purpose of transportation today.

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