|On Buying Miniature Donkeys|
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|By the ADMS Staff
Miniature donkeys (aka Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys) have recently become known to more people and as a consequence are more popular than they have ever been in their history. The first ones were imported from the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia in the 1920's and these animals were supplemented with importations at intervals up until the 1950's and possibly the early 1960's. A registry was started in 1958 and is still thriving today. You may wonder what to look for in buying a miniature donkey since there is a great variation in price for various sizes, colors and sexes. The first priority is to decide what you really want. Almost every miniature is a good pet, but if all you want is a pet, there is no point in buying at the high end of the market. A $300 jack to be gelded makes a better and more useful pet than a $5,000 fancy colored jennet that you will feel obligated to keep in foal all the time because of her high price. It is a mistake to go out and buy before doing your homework and the first thing you must decide is why you want the donkey.
If you decide you want a donkey or two for a pet and feel the small size of the miniature is for you, then personality and price are probably the two things you are most concerned with. You do of course want a donkey that is pretty in your own eyes, but show quality conformation (body build) is certainly not necessary. When thinking about a pet donkey you should decide not to buy an ungelded jack (gelding is castration and routinely performed on many male equines). An ungelded jack can be and usually is a kind natured creature, but he is by nature a breeding animal and will have certain instincts and actions that are not suitable for pets. Any pet male equine should be a gelding, jacks should be kept "entire" only if they are intended for breeding. The benefit to this is that only one jack is needed to breed many jennies. This means there is a surplus of young jacks for the pet market. You can often find one as inexpensively as $250 to $500. If you are looking for breeding stock, you should expect prices of $1500 and up - all the way to $5000 if you are looking at proven bloodlines, popular colors, and top-quality donkeys. The norm for youngsters is usually $1500-$2000. This is not a large investment in a pet when you realize that your donkey can live for 30 years and more!
When looking at any donkey but most especially one for a pet try to find one that is friendly and will come up and be petted. Most miniature donkeys are not trained to do much, so you will probably have to train your own and a friendly cooperative disposition will make a lot of difference. When buying a breeding jennet, disposition is not as important but she must be able to be handled since you will have to do quite a few things to her such as trim her feet, give her shots, handle her foals etc. If you are buying a breeding jack disposition is very important. The animal should be trained to lead properly if it is two years or older, and should be quiet, friendly and easily handled. (We do not recommend buying a single jack and jennet pair, and never as foal-pairs. You should have at least three jennets and proper facilities before considering a breeding jack.)
If you plan to breed miniature donkeys you will have to study the "market". It is a good idea to go and see as many donkeys as possible before you actually buy any, and to study the literature available. The American Donkey and Mule Society has conformation guidelines and many sources for information on these animals. In general the two things that determine price the most in today's market are color and size. The buyer must realize that these two factors must never take the place of proper conformation!
As a potential breeder your most important choice is your herd jack. You may be lucky enough to live near someone who will have a good jack available to breed to your jennets but probably you will not. You should keep in mind that unless you have two strains of donkeys (two different jack/jennet herds) you will sooner or later have to sell or geld and keep your current jack to avoid inbreeding. At the time you buy your jack three things will be important, good conformation, small size and an attractive color that you like personally. It might also pay you to remember that the color that is pulling very high prices today because of its rarity may be fairly to quite common in a few years when your foals start coming.
Height in a mature animal (3 years or older) is determined by measuring with a rigid stick with a cross bar from the highest point of the withers (the top of the shoulders where the cross stripe crosses) to the ground. In buying babies you should determine accurately the height of the parents. If you buy miniature babies without knowing the height of the parents you are taking the chance that they might grow over the 36" mark and thus have to be registered as standard donkeys. Most breeders agree that to stay in the market, herd jacks should be 34 inches tall and under. Very small animals under 30 inches can be a problem and are also very expensive. If you have a chance to get a very small one feel free to do so, but keep in mind that he may have some problems breeding the larger jennies, may not have the best conformation or may not be as vigorous as a larger animal, especially if he has gotten his small stature from inbreeding. Most breeders tell me they would choose a 30-32 inch gray-dun jack with really good conformation over a 28 inch, black dwarfish animal with low breeding vigor. Common sense will have to be your main guide. People who come to buy your donkeys will be very discouraged if your herd jack is not a well built and attractive animal with a good disposition. Always remember THE JACK IS HALF THE HERD. Since he contributes half the genes to every foal in his breeding group, he is indeed half the herd and a very important half too! (On the note of size, it was discussed a few years back on the issue of whether or not donkeys under 30" would be excluded from the registry. ADMS has NO PLANS to exclude any miniature donkeys on the basis of size alone.)
If you have a small well built jack you can have a little leeway on your jennies. It would of course, be best to buy jennies which are as perfect as possible. However the females are often in short supply, and can be very expensive. Study some live donkeys and the conformation guidelines before you buy anything in order to save yourself a costly mistake.
When you buy miniature donkeys for breeding you should try to get a guarantee in writing. The guarantee should cover breeding soundness. That is, the jack should be fertile and the jennet should have at least one foal for you. Various breeders offer various guarantees, but if they don't, you might look into making one up which covers your interests and asking the breeder if he will agree to it. (Do not be unreasonable in your requests however.) Also you should always have a veterinarian look over the donkey for you before you buy it. Ask the vet to make sure that the donkey has a good "bite", the registry allows no more than 1/4" over or underbite, and anything else that you want to know that might not be covered in a routine veterinary examination.
Besides the teeth defects your vet should look at the general conformation, are there any inherited or severe defects? Brood jennets can get quite swaybacked with age. If they are good breeders you can disregard this. Many donkeys stand "cowhocked", that is with the hind feet pointing outwards and the hocks pointing inwards. This is a natural stance with donkeys but if it is severe it should be discriminated against. A small amount of this problem is not anything to turn a donkey down for, and may indeed come from poor foot care when the animal was young. The front feet also may turn outwards, if this is a small amount you can disregard it but if it is severe and not due to bad feet it should be discriminated against as it is inheritable. If the jennet you are looking at has a fat roll at the top of her neck, and even if it has fallen over resulting in a "broken crest" it is not important. It means somebody fed her too much and she got too fat. Donkeys store fat in their necks like camels store it in their humps and if it stays too long you can not get rid of it. However it does not affect anything but their looks. (Donkey people get used to it.)
The age of donkeys is something to think about. You can often get a weanling cheaper than an adult but if it is to be a breeding jennet do not breed it before it is two years old! Jacks are also usually introduced to breeding at age two. You can safely buy an older jennet, even up to 15 for breeding if she has had several foals recently and is breeding regularly and with no trouble. She could produce healthy foals and stay healthy herself into her 20s. Beware the jennet who is over 4 and has never been bred. She could be big trouble getting in foal and the older she is the more trouble. If she is 6 or older and has never been bred, you should not pay more than a pet price for her because she might never get in foal.
Jacks stay fertile for most of their lifetime and should be able to breed through their 20s. If you find a herd jack on the market because the breeder needs to avoid breeding him to his own offspring, and he is a proven breeder, snap him up if he suits you, as this is an excellent way to get a proven jack. If you are paying a good price for him you might ask the vet to do a fertility test on him as a precaution.
Should you buy only registered stock? Well, if a breeder registers his/her stock it shows you that that person keeps proper records and cares about his animals. However if you find a really good donkey that is unregistered, the registry has two different books, one that is "open" and your animal can be registered upon inspection as an American Miniature. . (Rules available from American Donkey & Mule Society) One great value of registration is the fact that pedigrees can be kept for past and future generations and inbreeding can be avoided. Because of their small initial numbers miniature donkeys as a breed are much more inbred than larger donkeys. Luckily they have a very strong gene pool and have not been greatly affected as a breed.
(What this basically means is, if you want to raise Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys, make sure the parents are already regsitered as Miniature Mediterraneans. Otherwise, your new donkey will be an American Miniature, as will the offspring for several generations after that.)
Color is considered to be a factor in the expense of miniature donkeys. The gray-dun color (grayish/buff body color with a distinct cross on the back) is the original and most common color and thereby the least expensive. As this is being written the most desired colors are black, dark brown (often commonly called chocolate), sorrel (RED) (reddish color in summer coat) and spotted. These colors are rarer than gray-dun, brown and light brown. There are a very few other colors, white either Blue-eyed white (recessive similar to albino) or Frosted Spotted White (non albino), and a few interesting gray (old term "blue") roans. It must be noted that you should not let someone sell you a a gray-dun donkey as a sorrel or brown just because it has winter hair or foal hair of that color. Many gray-dun donkeys have winter and foal coats of a brown or reddish tinge but shed out to some shade of gray in the summer! Summer coat is considered the true color, not winter coat! I personally know at least one donkey who has a very "pink" coat in the winter--anyone would say he was a sorrel. He sheds out to silver gray in the summer and is technically a gray-dun so beware! This does not mean that the person selling the donkey is trying to cheat you. Many people are new to donkeys but are still breeding and selling them and do not have the experience that it takes to determine donkey coat colors. Also these colors can change somewhat with maturity (just to make things more difficult).
If you want to know where to see or buy miniature donkeys, ask the American Donkey and Mule Society for a breeders list.
These are just a few thoughts on the many, many aspects of buying a miniature donkey. Pet buying is easy, but buying for breeding, especially if you plan to breed for a profit can be rather complicated. If you would like your questions answered or to be referred to people who can help you contact The American Donkey and Mule Society, PO Box 1210, Lewisville TX 75067.
|Mini foals are appealing!!! But buy intelligently - don't start with a youngster if you have never owned equines.
|Frosted Spotted white - the remnants of the dark spotting can still be seen. For more on breeding for spotted donkeys, see the Site on COLOR|
|Tiny mini foals!!! "Hotshot" at one week.|
If you are buying an animal as "registered" that "has papers as a mini" ask to see those papers before you buy! If the seller has not yet send in the paperwork, it isn't registered!
Make sure if you want MMD breeding or show stock that both parents are already registered as Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys, and that your new purchase will qualify for the MDR book.
|The grace period for Miniature Donkeys to be registered in MDR as Miniature Mediterranean (both parents must be registered Miniature Mediterraneans) WITHOUT a form of Permanent ID has expired.
If you send in a mini with NO ID it will automatically be placed in ADR as an American Miniature Donkey.
You may choose the form of Perm ID (Microchip, freeze brand, lip tattoo, ear tattoo, DNA on file) but you must specify what type and where on the application form.
Two photos are also required as well, one of each side.