Zoolog. Soc.' 1862 page 164. Dr. Hartmann says ('Annalen der Landw.' b. 44 page 222) that this animal in its wild state is not always striped across the legs.) The ass is sometimes advanced as an instance of an animal domesticated, as we know by the Old Testament, from an ancient period, which has varied only in a very slight degree. But this is by no means strictly true; for in Syria alone there are four breeds (2/44. W.C. Martin 'History of the Horse' 1845 page 207.); first, a light and graceful animal, with an agreeable gait, used by ladies; secondly, an Arab breed reserved exclusively for the saddle; thirdly, a stouter animal used for ploughing and various purposes; and lastly, the large Damascus breed, with a peculiarly long body and ears. In the South of France also there are several breeds, and one of extraordinary size, some individuals being as tall as full-sized horses. Although the ass in England is by no means uniform in appearance, distinct breeds have not been formed. This may probably be accounted for by the animal being kept chiefly by poor persons, who do not rear large numbers, nor carefully match and select the young. For, as we shall see in a future chapter, the ass can with ease be greatly improved in size and strength by careful selection, combined no doubt with good food; and we may infer that all its other characters would be equally amenable to selection. The small size of the ass in England and Northern Europe is apparently due far more to want of care in breeding than to cold; for in Western India, where the ass is used as a beast of burden by some of the lower castes, it is not much larger than a Newfoundland dog, "being generally not more than from twenty to thirty inches high." (2/45. Col. Sykes Cat. of Mammalia 'Proc. Zoolog. Soc.' July 12, 1831. Williamson 'Oriental Field Sports' volume 2 quoted by Martin page 206.)
The ass varies greatly in colour; and its legs, especially the fore-legs, both in England and other countries--for instance, in China--are occasionally barred more plainly than those of dun-coloured horses. Thirteen or fourteen transverse stripes have been counted on both the fore and hind legs. With the horse the occasional appearance of leg-stripes was accounted for by reversion to a supposed parent-form, and in the case of the ass we may confidently believe in this explanation, as E. taeniopus is known to be barred, though only in a slight degree, and not quite invariably. The stripes are believed to occur most frequently and to be plainest on the legs of the domestic ass during early youth (2/46. Blyth in 'Charlesworth's Mag. of Nat. Hist.' vol 4 1840 page 83. I have also been assured by a breeder that this is the case.), as likewise occurs with the horse. The shoulder-stripe, which is so eminently characteristic of the species, is nevertheless variable in breadth, length, and manner of termination. I have measured one four times as broad as another, and some more than twice as long as others. In one light-grey ass the shoulder- stripe was only six inches in length, and as thin as a piece of string; and in another animal of the same colour there was only a dusky shade representing a stripe. I have heard of three white asses, not albinoes, with no trace of shoulder or spinal stripes (2/47. One case is given by Martin 'The Horse' page 205.); and I have seen nine other asses with no shoulder-stripe, and some of them had no spinal stripe. Three of the nine were light-greys, one a dark-grey, another grey passing into reddish-roan, and the others were brown, two being tinted on parts of their bodies with a reddish or bay shade. If therefore grey and reddish-brown asses had been steadily selected and bred from, the shoulder stripe would probably have been lost almost as generally and completely as in the case of the horse.
The shoulder stripe on the ass is sometimes double, and Mr. Blyth has seen even three or four parallel stripes. (2/48. 'Journal As. Soc. of Bengal' volume 28 1860 page 231. Martin on the Horse page 205.) I have observed in ten cases shoulder-stripes abruptly truncated at the lower end, with the anterior angle produced into a tapering point, precisely as in the above dun Devonshire pony.