It is believed that the first donkeys came to North America with Christopher
Columbus in 1495. Donkeys were highly valued as sires for mules. Jacks, or the
males were primarily used as pack animals and the Jennies were used for riding.
Donkeys were also used in Mexico after the conquest of the Aztecs in 1521. Mules were used in silver mines and for breeding mules.
Donkeys were used largely in the western United States during the nineteenth century during the gold rush as pack animals and for use in mines and ore-grinding mills; however, the introduction of railroads in the West ended the popular use of donkeys in the United States. Many donkeys were turned loose and became free roaming burros.