The Istrian donkey is an autochthonous breed of the largest peninsula in the Adriatic sea, Istria. Supposedly, donkey breeding in Istria appeared during the Roman Empire, and it is very likely that donkeys came here from North Africa.
The Istrian donkey represents an important element in cultural and historical identity of Istria. In the past, together with the Istrian cattle, the Istrian donkeys were used as working animals for the transport of goods and less heavy materials. Due to the abandonment of traditional agriculture and the modernization of transport, the number of this native breed notable decreased. Few years ago, the population of Istrian donkey has touched a historic low level, there were found around fifty animals. Nowadays, the number has risen to over 250 pure animals thanks to the initiative set up by several breeders. The goal was to revival donkeys by focusing on its gastronomic purposes.
Compared with the other donkeys, they are more robust and stronger. The head is large, heavy, with straight or slightly concave profile, with long ears with white hair on the inner side. The muzzle is white with the black areas around nostrils. They have short mostly black, rarely dark brown coat and white to grey belly.
The Istrian donkey meat is considered as very tasty. Due to its sinewy structure, is suitable for longer cooking in stews or sous-vide cooking that particularly enhance the natural aromas and taste of the meat. One of traditional dishes made in Istria is pasta with the Istrian donkey.