African Wild Ass Lineage is the Foundation of all Donkeys

August 11, 2010

NGS stock photo of donkeys by Ira S. Lerner

I just came across this article at National Geographic. I must admit I have quite a fondness for African donkeys. They just keep keepin’on in the most difficult circumstances. Their bray is other-worldly. It sounds pretty much like the Tusken Raider that tries to kill Luke just before he meets Ben Kenobi in the original Star Wars.

Genetic analysis proves that the African wild ass, which may be down to the last few hundred individuals, is the ancestor of modern donkeys. The same study by an international group of researchers suggests that a subspecies, the Nubian wild ass, thought to have vanished, might have survived after all.

It turns out that the Wild Ass of East Africa is the living ancestor of all modern donkey lineages. These asses were domesticated by pastoral nomads around about 5,000 years ago. That’s potentially in the same ballpark as the domestication of the Azawakh dogs by those same nomads.

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