The great donkey mystery has been solved! Wait, you didn’t know there was a mystery?
We’re here to tell you that the when-and-where of how the humble donkey became man’s go-to beast of burden has never been uncovered, until now. A new study published in Science using DNA from over 200 donkeys from around the world proved that they were domesticated in East Africa around 7,000 years ago.
The researchers collected 207 genomes from living donkeys in 31 countries and from 31 ancient donkeys who were thought to have lived between 100 and 4,000 years ago, as well as 15 wild equids. The DNA was sequenced and compared, with the result being that all donkeys can trace their family tree to one domestication event in East Africa, around 5000 B.C.
It is thought that after this occurred, domesticated donkeys were sold and bred across the rest of Africa before finding themselves working equally hard in Europe and Asia. The exact details of this “domestication event” will remain a mystery, but the result is our hard-working, adorable long-eared donkey.
“Donkeys are extraordinary working animals that are essential to the livelihoods of millions of people around the globe,” Emily Clark, a livestock geneticist at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh, told Science News. “As humans, we owe a debt of gratitude to the domestic donkey for the role they play and have played in shaping society.”
Perhaps the study should launch a geneology website for donkey owners called Assestry!