The donkey is a member of the horse family, although they are often stockier, stronger, and have much different personalities. Their surefootedness and strength make them the ideal beast of burden. They can carry up to twice their own body weight and are still used for transporting goods and as a mode of transportation all around the world. Evidence that these hard workers have been hauling goods can be found as far back as the fourth millennium BC in Egypt.
They are not as easily startled as horses, but when they are, they tend to take a moment to assess the situation, the result of a much stronger sense of self-preservation than horses. This is why they are often considered to be stubborn, refusing to do something they consider to be dangerous. Studies of their behavior are limited, but donkeys appear to be quite intelligent, cautious, friendly, playful, and eager to learn.
Working donkeys can live 12–15 years in poorer countries, but in more prosperous countries their lifespan can be 30–50 years.
Donkeys have a very loud voice. Their bray lasts for several seconds and can be heard a very long way away. They also have large ears. Donkeys can be as tall as 63 inches at the withers (shoulder) and can weigh over 1,000 pounds. They have a line of darker hair that starts at the top of the head and runs to the end of the tail. This is then crossed at the withers with another darker line of hair, forming a cross.
Donkeys are called by different names including burro and ass. Burro is a Spanish term for the common working donkey in Spain and Mexico. The word entered the English language when Spaniards brought them to America in the 1500s. Ass comes from the Latin phrase asinus and is found most often in some versions of the Bible, in particular the King James Version (KJV). For example, “If thou meet thine enemy’s ox or his ass going astray, thou shalt surely bring it back to him again.” Exodus 23:4
One of the most well-known events in the Bible involved a donkey—Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. This event can be found in all four gospels (Matthew 21, Mark 11, Luke 19 and John 12).
“Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, “The Lord hath need of them,” and immediately he will send them.’
“All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying ‘Tell the daughter of Zion, Behold, your King is coming to you, lowly, and sitting on a donkey, …’ So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them. They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.
“Then the multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying, ‘Hosanna to the son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!’ ” Matthew 21:1–9
Sources: Wikipedia, howstuffworks.com and readamyelizabeth.com