Have you ever heard of the Somali wild ass? These asses are a subspecies of wild asses of Africa. They are closely related to Nubian wild asses, but these animals are also the proud owners of black stripes on their legs, linking them to their relatives of the Equidae family, zebras.
These donkeys are commonly found in Ethiopia’s Afar region, Somaliland, and Somalia as well as the Eritrean region to the south of the Red Sea. They prefer living close to a water body and, the closer they are situated to good vegetation, the larger groups they form to live together. This animal is also known to have excellent hearing skills and sharp vision.
Fascinated by these fun Somali wild ass facts? Well, dive deeper and enjoy our articles on the Sumatran elephant and the Markhor.
Somali Wild Asses
What do they prey on?
What do they eat?
Average litter size?
How much do they weigh?
605 lb (275 kg)
How long are they?
6.6 ft (2 m)
How tall are they?
4.2 - 5.5 ft (1.25 - 1.67 m) at the shoulder
What do they look like?
Gray and white with striped legs and narrow hooves
What are their main threats?
Humans, interbreeding, and predators
What is their conservation status?
Where you'll find them
Grasslands, bushland, and desert
Equus africanus somaliensis
Somali Wild Asses Interesting Facts
What type of animal are Somali wild asses?
As one of the three different subspecies of African wild ass, the Somalian wild ass is one of the smallest wild equids, a group that includes zebras and horses alongside asses.
What class of animal do Somali wild asses belong to?
The Somali wild ass is classified in the Mammalia class.
How many Somali wild asses are there in the world?
It is estimated that less than 1000 Somali wild asses are alive today. This number shows why they are an endangered species that require conservation efforts to protect them.
Where do Somali wild asses live?
These wild asses mainly live in areas where there is sparse vegetation.
What is a Somali wild ass' habitat?
These wild asses are mainly located in hilly deserts as well as grasslands and bushland.
Who do Somali wild asses live with?
Found in regions with limited resources, these asses adapt to a 'fusion-fission' way of living. Adult African asses usually live alone by themselves, or in small herds with females and foals. In regions with good food supplies or lots of rain, these animals join together and live in larger herds.
How long do Somali wild asses live?
The average life span of a Somalian ass in the wild is about 40 years.
How do they reproduce?
Male Somalian wild asses are capable of breeding when they reach their second year of life. However, they have to compete with older asses for mates, and so they often do not mate until they reach the age of four. Alternatively, females of this species begin to breed at two years of age. The gestation period takes between 376 to 390 days. After this long pregnancy, the female gives birth to a foal in the spring. Even though the female is able to have a foal every year, she tends to only reproduce once every two years.
What is their conservation status?
Somali wild asses are classified as Critically Endangered. This means that conservation efforts to protect these animals and their habitat are very important.
Somali Wild Asses Fun Facts
What do Somali wild asses look like?
These animals have gray bodies with a white belly and they have also got straight stripes on their legs. These Somali wild ass stripes resemble those of zebras! They also have long thin hooves. These hooves help them to sprint faster and adjust to their rough, uneven semi-arid habitat. These equids also own a bristly mane that stands upright, resembling zebras again. This mane is gray at the roots and black at the tips. These African wild asses' coats have a soft lavender hue.
How cute are they?
If you are a lover of donkeys then this African wild ass species will melt your heart, especially their baby foals!
How do they communicate?
These African wild asses communicate using both postures and sounds. They often grunt and growl to express aggression, and they also 'whuffle' to communicate their location to others in their herd. If they have any suspicions of danger approaching, they snort to raise an alarm. Their usual brays include ‘hee-haw’ sounds. The ‘hee’ sound is made as they breathe in, and the ‘haw’ comes as they breathe out. These African wild asses also examine the scent of the others in their herd. If a jack is ready to mate, he pursues the mare, who defends herself with powerful kicks. Once the stallion gets the upper hand, he bites either the neck or the hind legs of his mate.
How big are Somali wild asses?
At 4.2 - 5.5 ft (1.25 - 1.67 m) tall, this African wild ass is as big as an average donkey.
How fast can Somali wild asses move?
This African wild ass can run at a speed ranging between 18.6-24.9 mph (30-40 kph).
How much do Somali wild asses weigh?
A foal weighs about 50-60 lb (23-27 kg). A fully grown Somali wild ass weighs an average of 605 lb (275 kg).
What are their male and female names of the species?
The male wild ass is called a 'jack' or a 'stallion', whereas a female is called a 'jenny' or 'mare'.
What would you call a baby Somali wild ass?
A Somali wild ass baby is called a foal. These foals are super cute, have you ever seen one?
What do they eat?
The white belly of this equid is mainly satisfied with grass! These Somali wild asses' diet also includes small shrubs, bark, and other plants that they find in the desert. These asses first grab their food with the help of their strong lips, following which they tear the plant apart with their strong teeth to eat it. Their teeth are large, wide, and flat so they can crush their food easily. As well as eating desert plants, they try to drink water at least once every two to three days.
Are they dangerous?
Unless you approach their territory, these asses are harmless. However, one strong kick from their hooves is strong enough to drive away predators.
Would they make a good pet?
No, these asses can be slightly aggressive and might kick you in defense!
Did you know...
Wild Somalian and Nubian asses are an integral component in the history of the African continent. Images of these breeds of wild donkeys have been carved in caves dating back to ancient times. It was believed that some royals even punished any offender who dared to kill these wild asses by cutting off their hand!
Why are Somali wild asses endangered?
Their conservation status has been reduced to Critically Endangered and interbreeding of these wild asses with domestic breeds has unfortunately led to a steep decline in their population. This species has also been hunted down for traditional medicinal purposes, both for their skin as well as for meat. It is believed by some that their meat and fat have the ability to cure hepatitis and tuberculosis.
Also, they have to compete for food and water with other livestock, and this is further increasing the rate of the species' decline. Other minor contributors to their extinction include political instability which has allowed unauthorized access to weapons, as well as a lack of awareness for the welfare of this species. Environmental catastrophes such as droughts cause further problems to these equids, thus threatening their survival.
A conservation project has been initiated in Eritrea which is supported by Basel Zoo. Additionally, a good number of these animals are now protected in the Yotvata Hai-Bar Nature Reserve as further conservation of the species is worked towards.
Somali wild ass vs African wild ass
African wild asses have two subspecies: Somali and Nubian wild asses. Though almost identical, you can find a few differences between the two subspecies. For example, Nubian asses have longer ears than their fellow Somalian asses. Nubian asses also don't have black striped legs, as this is one of the unique Somali wild ass adaptations. Instead, Nubian asses have a ‘cross pattern’, which is not present in Somali asses.
Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including a Gemsbok, or a Quoll.
You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our two donkeys coloring pages.
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