Donkeys or asses, Equus africanus asinus, are domesticated members of the Equidae or horse family. The wild ancestor of the donkey is the African Wild Ass, E. africanus. Asses were first domesticated around 3000 BC, or 4000 BC, probably in Egypt or Mesopotamia, and have spread around the world. They continue to fill important roles in many places today. While domesticated species are increasing in numbers, the African wild ass and another relative, the Onager, are endangered. As "beasts of burden" and companions, asses and donkeys have worked together with humans for millennia.
- A wilful plough-ox should be put back in the track, a balking ass should be made to take the straight path.
- Poor little foal of an oppressèd race!
I love the languid patience of thy face.
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "To a Young Ass" (1794), line 1.
- John Trott was desired by two witty peers
To tell them the reason why asses had ears.
"An 't please you," quoth John, "I'm not given to letters;
Nor dare I pretend to know more than my betters:
Howe'er, from this time I shall ne'er see your graces,
As I hope to be saved! without thinking on asses."
- Oliver Goldsmith, The Clown's Reply; reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 45.