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Why are donkeys called jackasses?

Last Reviewed and Updated on June 14, 2022

If you are lucky enough to often be near donkeys you might hear people referring to some as jackasses? Why are donkeys called jackasses? Does this term apply to all donkeys or just a specific type of donkey? Is the term derogatory? Read on and learn everything about this “name”.

A donkey wasn’t always a donkey

The naming of this animal gives the first hint as to why some are called jackasses.

While the common name for this animal is a donkey, this wasn’t always the case. In fact, the word donkey was used as a slang word. The origin of the word donkey isn’t entirely known, it is possible the word derived from the Middle English word donekie, meaning a miniature horse. Another possibility is it is derived from the Middle English word dun, referring to the color of the animal.

Originally the name used for a donkey was an ass, the word that derived from the Latin word asinus.

Ass was commonly used up to the 18th century. Later the use of the word donkey was more common. You can use both names interchangeably today. Using the word donkey is more common though.

We have now decoded one part of the name jackass.

What about Jack?

With most animal species, we give specific names to male and female members of the species, as well as offspring.

In the case of donkeys, female donkeys are called jennies or jennets and the males are called jacks. Offspring are called foals, no matter the gender.

There are even more specific names for genders, when it comes to hybrids of donkeys, as they can be bread with horses as well as zebras.

So which donkey is a jackass?

A jackass is what you would call a male donkey. There is nothing derogatory about calling a donkey a jackass. It is technically incorrect if you call a female donkey a jackass.

It’s however not cool to call a human a jackass.

Love donkeys? Give this list of donkey facts a read.

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