The Difference between Horses and Donkeys

The difference between a horse (Equus caballus) and a donkey (Equus asinu) is very dramatic once you break down and examine the physical characteristics of them one by one. Before noting these examples, here are a few other interesting facts to note.

Common Names

Female horse = mare

Female donkey = jenny

Male horse = stallion

Male donkey = jack


Mares (horses) are mated with jacks (donkeys) to produce a third animal known as a mule. Mules are sterile as a result of the chromosome difference between a horse and a donkey; horses have 64 chromosomes that equal 32 pairs and donkeys have 62 chromosomes that equal 31 pairs.

Life Span

Donkeys live much longer than horses, with an average life span of 30 to 50 years whereas a horse can be expected to live 25 to 30 years. This is a huge difference of about twenty years between them and so expect to feed your pet donkey for a lot longer.

Physical Characteristics

The most obvious difference between these two animals is the tail. A horses’ tail grows long hair from a short stub and a donkey tail is long with short, course hair along the length of it that ends in a furry tuft. A less noticeable difference is the feet unless you look very close. Horse hooves are larger while donkey hooves are more upright and round. 

The coat of these two animals is different when you inspect them closely. Donkeys lack a protective undercoat that horses have and so they are more susceptible to weather conditions such as heavy, wet snow and rain when compared to horses. Donkeys make up for this by having air pockets between their hairs that protects them against extreme cold or hot weather.

Horses and donkeys make different sounds from each other. A horse will whinny and a donkey will make a braying sound. The faces of these animals are also very different. A horse has smaller ears, eyes and overall size of the head when compared to a donkey. The last major difference is that donkey’s pregnancy times are longer. A mares gestation period is an expected 11-month time period and a jennys’ can range between 11 and 14 months.

Horses and donkeys are interesting animals to compare to each other. They will forever be associated together because of their similarities, and if you squint really hard with the sun in your face, it would be quite easy to mistake one for the other. The fact that they are often bred together to create a third specimen, the mule, is also a very interesting fact that will forever bind these two creatures together.