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|Asiatic Wild Ass
The Asiatic Wild Ass stands 3-4½ feet at the shoulder. It is generally gray or brownish in color most of the year, but becomes darker during the hot summer months. The muzzle, flanks, and belly are always lighter. The coarse mane lacks a forelock, and there is a tuft of long hair at the tip of the tail. There are five distinct geographic sub-species, each of which varies slightly in coloration.
Distribution and Habitat
Wild asses are found from the Black Sea to the Yellow River in China, but over half of the world's total population is in southern Mongolia. They inhabit desert and semi-desert regions, but will sometimes wander into plains and high into mountains. They are endangered throughout their range, with those populations outside of Mongolia being on the verge of extinction.
Grasses and sedges make up the bulk of the ass's diet most of the year, but it will turn to herbs and bark as the vegetation begins to wither.
Courtship takes place in the spring or summer depending on location. The stallions compete for females, with the most dominant stallion often gathering several females into a "harem." The foals are born 11-12 months later, and the mares generally breed only once in two years, starting when two or three years old. A few months after foaling, some of the mares and their offspring are driven from the troop to be taken in charge by younger solitary stallions. Wild asses have been known to live up to 14 years in the wild, but the average lifespan is 4-6 years.
Wild asses live in troops of 10-12, generally consisting of a single stallion, several females, and some juveniles. In the fall and winter, when vegetation is the most plentiful, several troops may come together into herds of up to 300 individuals.
Apart from man, wolves are the ass's principal threat. A troops of asses presents a formidable obstacle to most predators, but a solitary animal is easy prey. If danger threatends, the dominant stallion leads the troop away, but will turn back to hurry any lagging females or juveniles along, nibbling them, neighing, and shaking its head. If necessary, a wild ass can run at speeds up to 43 miles per hour.
This page was last updated on February 17, 2017.