The Miniature Mediterranean donkey, also called the Sardinian donkey or the Sicilian donkey is one of the smallest donkey breeds in the world. Adults usually grow from 30 to 36 inches at the withers. The smallest of these small donkeys have been only 26 inches tall, according to the University of Oklahoma. The usually weigh from 250 to 500 pounds.
Dwarfism does exist in the breed. Ethical breeders try never to breed dwarf donkeys or donkeys with dwarf genes. These are small donkeys – not dwarf donkeys. They do not have the stunted legs of dwarf donkeys. Despite their small size, these donkeys are strong enough to pull carts and carry children or small adult riders. They also make good companions for ponies, miniature horses and sometimes regular sized horses.
This rare breed originated in the Mediterranean islands of Sardinia and Sicily. The island donkeys’ ancestors may have come from Africa. Island breeders selected smaller animals because they needed the donkeys to primarily turn grain mills. According to the Miniature Mediterranean Donkey Association, these mills were located inside of homes, which were too small for average-sized donkeys. The breed was established in the 1700s.
The availability of mass-produced goods looked to spell the end of the breed. Today the donkeys are rarely spotted in their native island homes. The vast majority live in North America, Australia and the UK. Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys arrived in America in 1929 through the efforts of successful stockbroker Robert Green. The first miniature donkey registry began in Texas in 1958.
These are sturdy little donkeys with straight legs, rounded hindquarters and tough hooves. Male or jacks usually are larger and heavier than females or jennys. They come in a variety of colors, including various shades of dun, piebald, skewbald and white. Donkeys with solid colors like black, sorrel or dark brown still sport pale bellies, muzzles and inside of the legs. Most donkeys have a thin white or pale colored ring around the eyes.
They possess a calm temperament, making them good with children. However, small children should always be supervised when interacting with any heavy animal like a donkey. They like human attention and are easily trained. They do not do well alone and need other animal companions, preferably other equines. Despite their small size, they should not be kept in homes. With luck, a Miniature Mediterranean Donkey can live to be 30 to 35 years old.