Donkeys have served as pack animals since they were domesticated in the Egyptian Nile Valley about 6,000 years ago. Undoubtedly, they were initially a food source before humans discovered how useful they could be in this role. These animals were paramount to the development of agriculture and communities. Perhaps your first image of a donkey is of it hauling some kind of heavy load.

We must begin with the animal’s ancestry to understand how much weight a miniature donkey can carry. The African Wild Ass (Equus africanus) is the ancestor of the modern-day donkey or burro. The former averages about 550 pounds, with males and females similar in size. The latter is about the same. According to The Donkey Sanctuary of Canada, a miniature donkey can carry up to 20% of its weight1.

That means the average burro can manage about 110 pounds based on its average weight. But what about the miniature donkey? How much can it handle?

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The Miniature Donkey

miniature donkeys standing next to a wire fence
Image Credit: Gwells, Shutterstock

Selective breeding typically follows soon after domestication. The donkey is no exception. According to the Domestic Animal Diversity Information System (DAD-IS) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), there are 185 donkey or ass breeds worldwide. Their distribution varies by continent and country. You typically find only eight in the United States.

The miniature donkey only gets up to 36 inches tall. Oklahoma State University (OSU) estimates the US population at about 10,000 animals but possibly more. Their figures are based on registered donkeys. Unfortunately, not all owners take this step. That fact may skew the data. However, OSU lists this breed’s weight as between 250–450 pounds.

We can predict that a miniature donkey could carry between 50–90 pounds if we extrapolate these numbers. It’s worth noting that variability in the stature exists within the breed. Consequently, animals with smaller frames would have a difficult time managing the upper end of that range.

The largest breed in the United States is the Mammoth Jack Stock. It weighs in at 900 –1,200 pounds. That puts its load capacity between 180–240 pounds. We guess they call it mammoth for a good reason. It’s worth mentioning that a miniature donkey typically isn’t a pack animal. You’re more likely to find it as a family pet, instead.

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Final Thoughts

Donkeys have been an integral part of rural life for thousands of years. While they served many roles, one of their most important was standing in as pack animals. They have the stature and stability to excel in this job.

However, the Miniature Donkey is a different story, as its name suggests. It can only handle about 80% of what the average burro can manage at a top load of 90 pounds.


Featured Image Credit: cctm, Shutterstock