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Donkey Color Genetics

Donkey color genetics are not yet well understood, but are being researched more as breeding donkeys becomes more popular Also, with donkeys, "points" refers to the muzzle,rings around eyes, belly and upper legs."Trim" refers to the mane,tail and tips of ears. When determining the color of your donkey, the main body color is what should be looked at first, then trim color and point color.


The base colors can be diluted by the Ivory and Dun genes.


is a recessive gene and is characterized by a near white or cream base coat with pink skin and blue eyes. Mottled or speckled skin around eyes,nose and genitals can be seen in Ivory donkeys. The color of the animal is dependent on the base coat meaning that a red based ivory will generally be lighter than a black based. If the donkey has the dun gene as well as ivory then it will appear to be even lighter in color, with the dorsal stripe visible. The ivory gene is rare, and breeders are constantly trying to improve the gene pool to reduce the amount of inbred ivories.

Base Color

Body is uniformly black.Can be homozygous(EE) or heterozygous(Ee). May be faded or non faded.


Black pigment is suppressed and body color is a reddish color.Can only be homozygous(ee).Color range can vary from darker reds to lighter, more pale red.

Black donkey

Merry-Go-Round's Carbon Black. Solid Black Jack, no Dun and non faded.

Ivory colored donkey

Hauenstein's Arch Duke VanBlankenship.Ivory, base unknown. Photo courtesy of Merry-Go-Round Minis

Ivory colored donkey example2

Merry-Go-Round's ButterScotch. Black based Ivory, no dun.


causes the base coat to be diluted to a faded color, and primitive markings are present. The level of dilution varies. Types of Dun are

Gray Dun

Black base coat is diluted into a grey color.Trim and primitive markings are black or dark grey. Also the base coat can appear black with a cross (the dorsal/shoulder stripe).

Rose Dun(Red Dun)

Red base diluted to a pale reddish color.Trim and primitive markings are a darker shade of red.

Bay Dun

Bay base coat generally diluted to a color similar to red dun but with black trim. Brown (see below) can also be diluted by dun and can be a dark chocolaty color with the primitive markings visible.

gray-dun donkey without pangare

Merry-Go-Round's Shady Lady.gray-dun without pangare.

Red Dun donkey

Merry-Go-Round's Talleuah. Red Dun.

Bay Dun donkey

Merry-Go-Round's Theodora. Bay Dun.


Points are lightened.This is a very common gene in donkeys.Donkeys without pangare are rare but do exist.
Only effects black pigment, and lightens the main body color to a red color of varying shades. Red based donkeys can be carriers of agouti but do not express it. Brown donkeys are also caused by the agouti gene.In most donkeys only the trim is black due to pangare lightening the points.

White Patterns
Donkeys only have several types of roaning and several different spotting genes.
Roaning causes white hairs evenly intermixed with the base color of hairs over the entire body, head and legs included. Affects both red and black. The second type of roaning is usually called Frosting. It progressively whitens the body over time and can cause completely white donkeys with dark skin and eyes. It may not cause the entire body to become white, it can cause roaned patches or markings.
Spotting is a dominant gene and thought to be homozygous embryonic lethal. The spotting is typically horizontally oriented and can cross the shoulders. Color generally stays around eyes,ears,topline and generally on one or more leg.The leg markings may be broken or spotted. Blue eyes are unusual in spotted donkeys but it has occurred. Blazes and socks in donkeys are a minimal form of spotting. There have been no recorded cases of a sorrel donkey with the spotting gene.
Star donkeys have a star on their head of varying sizes. The star gene is not known to cause any other markings and is not related to the donkey spotting gene(s)
gray dun spotted donkey

Lyon's Brothers Morning Glory. gray-dun Spotted Jenny.

Spotted black donkey

Spotted Black Donkey

Spotted donkey with Roaning

Spotted Donkey with Roaning

Spotted donkeys

Spotted Donkeys in a group

All spotted donkeys are courtesy of Diamond B Ranch

All Photos of Merry-Go-Round Minis are Courtesy of Merry-Go-Round Minis. Check out their website and all of their wonderful Miniature Donkeys.