September 21, 2007
First Newsletter Continued - Part 4
An article on how to choose a mammoth donkey, for first time owner/buyers, or as a refresher for the rest of us. Submitted by Nelda Auge of Los Lunos, New Mexico.
How Do I Choose A Mammoth Donkey?
A few things to consider
First time donkey owners, who are looking for a mammoth sized donkey, are sometimes confused about what they should be looking for when choosing their new long eared companion. Here are a few suggestions that might be some food for thought.
First, of course, determine if you can care for a donkey properly. They require at least the basics of adequate shelter for your location, safe area for exercise, proper feed and water, farrier, dental, and veterinary care, as well as companionship. Donkeys are social creatures and really appreciate being with others of their own kind if possible, but they also need to be able to bond with their human too. Be sure you are willing and able to provide them with their basic needs. Get yourself a good book, such as the Definitive Donkey, available from the Hee Haw Book Service to learn about donkeys. http://www.geocities.com/heehawbookcat/
And remember, donkeys bray – sometimes loudly…. consider your neighborhood and if that will become a major problem.
Once you have determined that you can properly care for your donkey, decide WHY you want a mammoth. Be honest with yourself on your needs and wishes.
Do you want your mammoth donkey to be a pasture pet or for a companion animal to another equine, or do you just want to rescue one to love? If so, you may be willing to settle for an older donkey, one with less than perfect conformation, or even one with special needs. Size may not be an issue. These types of donkeys are often out there looking for good homes with people who are willing to give them some extra TLC. These donkeys may be found in your local newspapers or auctions. They sometimes go through equine rescue organizations. Putting out the word that you are looking for one will often bring you a donkey that needs you. These donkeys are often reasonably priced or even free. You should know that you might be looking at extra costs in the long run if they need special feed or vet or farrier care but helping such an animal in need can be a wonderful fulfilling experience.
Do you want to breed or show your donkey? Then you will want to be looking for a donkey with good conformation, health and disposition…. one that will pass on the best possible genetics to their offspring. Though there is no such thing as a "Perfect" donkey in all ways, a responsible breeder should be breeding only the best. Educate yourself as to what is considered good and bad traits and only breed your donkey if you have a market for good homes or are willing to keep the foal yourself. There are too many unwanted animals to breed irresponsibly or "just for fun". The ADMS and the AMJR registries put out good information for breeders and for those who wish to show. Show animals are judged on their conformation and for their ability to perform so keep those things in mind as you look for a donkey to fit those qualifications. Size will matter more for these purposes so be ready to know how to accurately measure your choice. Color may factor in to your preference.
Or do you intend to trail ride, pack, or drive your new donkey? You will want to find a donkey with good enough conformation and soundness to hold up to the kind of activities and terrain that you will have them in. A riding or pack donkey needs to be large enough to carry their rider or pack well, with strong backs, legs and feet. They need to be old enough to be mature if you intend to ride more than just a little, in good health and be conditioned if the trails are to be long or difficult. If you want to drive your donkey, they need to be mature enough, sound enough and large enough to pull the weight of the person and vehicle well. Driving animals need to be calm and dependable to be safe. Riding and driving animals that are willing to be forward moving may be easier to train and work with. Disposition is also important when choosing an animal for these activities.
Whether to choose a jennet or a gelding is an individual preference. Intact jacks should only be handled by those who are very experienced and who have facilities that can safely accommodate them - they can be unpredictable and dangerous. Most people should not keep intact jacks. Jacks can be successfully gelded when older by experienced veterinarians and go on to live happy, useful lives.
If you choose a foal or young donkey, you will have those "baby" stages to deal with, and you will have to wait until it is mature enough to do the things you want to do. Youngsters are fun, but can be challenging. You will also need to be willing to train it. An older, mature donkey may be more suitable if you want to ride or drive right away. Finding a well-trained donkey isn’t easy and may take time… most people who have them, keep them.
And of course, keep in mind that it’s best to have a Veterinary exam on your intended donkey so that you know the conditions of their health and possible long-term care before you buy or bring your new donkey home. Know what you may be getting into and the possible costs of time, money and dedication that you may be taking on.
All this said about choosing your mammoth donkey, you may find that your donkey chooses you. Many of us have had ideas about what we wanted in a donkey, only to find that when we went to look, a certain donkey chose us and ended up coming home with us, regardless of our best intentions. And those may become our very favorite donkeys of all. Donkeys are special creatures. I hope you find one to be your special companion and friend.
Submitted by Nelda Auge
First Newsletter Continued - Part 3
A few thoughts from Zach Zniewski (from Marathon, Texas) on Mammoth Jackstock. You can read an interview Zach gave at http://horsesinmexico.com/default.aspx,
scroll down to the "A Happy Family....the interview of the month.
I am real interested in the history of jack breeding in this country. Mules have changed so much in the last fifteen years or so, the old heavy draft types now being seen less, and light saddle type mules being much more popular.
I enjoy reading about the "old timers" who kept good jackstock during the years when the mule business was at its low point.
The jacks available to us modern folks, whose pedigrees can be traced back to the 19th century, are a national treasure. Every effort should be made to register jacks from these lines, to preserve the blood lines of these fine beasts.
I have in hand a Texas Almanac from 1955, more than a half century ago, and the mule statistics there in are interesting.
The book gives Texas mule population numbers from 1870 until 1955. There were only 81,000 in that earlier year, and with settlement and increased farming, the half million mark was reached in 1906. A million mules inhabited Texas by 1920, and 1926 was the peak year, with 1,240,000 in the state.
Ironically the mid-twenties were the years that tractors began to replace mules. A million of the animals were still at work in the state in 1932, but after that the numbers declined steadily. By 1955 only 68,000 mules lived in Texas, many superannuated beasts in the hands of nostalgic "old timers", or dirt farmers and sharecroppers too poverty stricken to tractor up.
Who were the breeders who hung on into the 1950s and 60s? Good jacks still were bought and sold, but by some estimates, the number of high quality pedigreed mammoth jacks in the entire US had gone down into the low hundreds.
The proud business calling, "Jack Breeder", had ceased to exist.
It is fortunate that a few dedicated preservationists during these years saved the old regristry, reviving it and saving old records.
We modern people can choose again from good lines of jack stock due to the efforts of these few.
With the revival of the mammoth jack business, we should all be aware of the importance of registration of our animals, thereby aiding in the effort to preserve and record the continuity of blood lines that in some cases predate the Civil War.
First Newsletter Continued - Part 2
A short article from Pat Scanlan, owner of the Donkey Tree, learn more at: http://www.donkeytree.com/donkeytree.html
The name Mammoth probably came
into use about 1836 when the jack named Mammoth was imported to Kentucky and bought by Dr. Davis. Mammoth and his line became known as the Kentucky mammoths. It was said to
be the the biggest jack imported up to that time at 64".
Henry Clay had imported several great jacks to Kentucky in the 1820s including Warrior, Ulysses and Don Carlos. Most of this importing activity was as a result of George Washington's interest in breeding mules from his European gifts. At the time of Washington's death some of his mules sold for about $200.00. This sparked great interest that started breeding, and the later imports of better jackstock to develop mules for farm work. Then there is a quiet period of the war and 20 years thereafter until an interest in pedigrees began. The first meeting of an interested group of breeders was in 1888. Two years later the American Breeders Association of Jacks and Jennets was formed and a registry established. Possibly that word American and mammoth came together at that time.
There are few, or no written records of pedigree before the 1880s. Most have been collected from memories, or maybe some from dreams. During the 50 years before the 1880s there is a very large blank in knowledge, and probably a very large mixing of the various imported stocks of Catalonian. Andalusian, Maltesian, Poitou, Majorcan, Italian and native American stocks. There are old prints of different types, but today I guess we can call them American because they are here, and mammoth because they are big.
First Mammoth Jackstock Newsletter - Part 1
This is the first Mammoth Jackstock Newsletter. This is a brief overview of some of the questions, comments and history a few of us have been discussing recently. If you have any articles that you'd like to submit for the newsletter, please forward the article to me, Tanya, at firstname.lastname@example.org or Nelda at email@example.com. If you have a certain product that you'd like tested on jackstock, email your suggestions to Marna at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the first monthly Mammoth Jackstock newsletter, and hopefully, there will be many more. In the computer era, we have so many more ways to keep in touch with other people in our community than in the past, yet we don’t have a single newsletter, magazine or anything else to keep people who are interested in Mammoth Jackstock connected. There are several publications out there today, most of them have a bit about donkeys of every size, and a bit about mules. They are all very good publications (which I have subscribed to all of them, and still subscribe to The Brayer from the ADMS), but what I’d like to see is one that is just for Mammoth Jackstock.
So, to start the newsletter, I’d like to throw out there some of the questions and issues we have been discussing lately on the Yahoo Mammoth Donkeys list. One, are American Mammoth Jackstock a breed?? In the U.S. they are mostly just a big donkey, registered by height. Does this constitute an actual breed?
Many people feel that there are two distinct “types” of Jackstock. The old preservationist type, which are drafty, big boned animals that were used in the past to breed to draft mares to make wonderful draft mules, for working the fields. And today’s more refined, “saddle” type, which many people feel are a more athletic, performance animal. Can there be two types in a breed? I feel that both types can fit into one breed category, although some others feel differently.
One other issue is what are the breed “standards” or characteristics, that would make them a breed that you could distinguish from other breeds of big donkeys around the world? Regrettably, many early Jackstock breeders didn’t keep good records of lineage, or records were lost over the years. This gives us a little bit of information and a lot of guessing. One registry (The American Mammoth Jackstock Registry) has standards to be met other than a height requirement. The AMJR requires that jacks be at least 58”s and jennets and geldings must be 56”s. Another requirement is that the donkey is at least 61”s around the heart girth. The last standard is that the donkey measures at least 8”s at the cannon bone (measured around the cannon bone midway between the knee and the fetlock) for jacks, and 7 ½”s for jennets and geldings. This registry also states that a burro cross is not characteristic of this breed. An animal bearing the burro cross is not eligible for acceptance into the registry. In the past, there were also required measurements of the ear span, and the donkey had to be black with white points. Eventually, the registry allowed other colors to be accepted.
The ADMS (American Donkey and Mule Society) registers animals in regards to height only. A jennet must be 54”s in height to be registered with the ADMS as mammoth, and a jack or gelding must be 56”s in height to be registered. An important side not, Leah Patton from the ADMS states that big donkey registrations are way, way down this year and have been declining for several years now.
The need for registering animals is important. One, we need to have documented bloodlines. Two, we need to make sure animals that are inadequate as breeding animals are not rebred. Most breeders know if an animal shouldn’t be bred, and will sell the animal as a saddle animal, or other using animal. Only a handful of irresponsible breeders will breed an animal no matter what the conformation or personality. Only the best donkeys should be bred, the ones with the best conformation and the best personality. Most of the breeders I have contact with only want to improve the breed and are very responsible.
To actually establish American Mammoth Jackstock as a breed, I have been told that a studbook would need to be established with parent verification. DNA testing would have to be incorporated eventually. I know of a few DNA labs that can do testing on donkeys. See below for a few of them.
Luckily, Pet DNA Services of Arizona has also been in contact with Leah Patton from the ADMS and is going to begin developing tests for coat color genes in donkeys. We definitely need more research in that area.
Apparently, donkeys (standard sized) made their first appearance in the new world in 1495, brought by Christopher Columbus. Four males and two females. These donkeys started the foundation of the donkeys who would carry the Conquistadors as they explored the Americas. President George Washington, with some gifts and purchases, imported big jacks (Catalonion, Andulusian, and Poitou, to name a few) from Europe in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Interest quickly grew, and there were an estimated five million mammoth donkeys in America in 1920. In the 1950’s, mammoth jackstock started to decline. There was a slight resurgence in numbers in the 1980’s.
Mammoth donkeys were primarily used in the production of draft mules, to work the fields, and are still used in mule production today. But, they are as likely to be pleasure animals, used the same way as horses, for trail riding, showing, and even dressage. These versatile animals are finding their own niche in the equine world.
I hope you enjoyed reading this short article. We have lots of articles lined up for the future, covering DNA testing, jack keeping, health issues, etc. If there is anything that someone would like an article on, please feel free to email me, and I will do my best to get an appropriate article into the next newsletter. Also, if anyone would like to submit an article, you can contact me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org . We would like articles on your donkey club, shows, and rescues too.
If you are interested in DNA testing, here are a few links help out:
Pet DNA Services of Az, Chandler, AZ 85246
The services offered by PDSAz include DNA tests for horses (coat color genes, white spotting, HYPP, HERDA), and DNA sexing of birds. We are also conducting genetic research of coat color genes in donkeys, and of the seal brown color in horses.
Michal Prochazka, MD
UCDavis-Veterinary Genetics Laboratory
University of Kentucky