The aim of the study was to establish morphometric, biochemical and hematological values for the endangered Balkan donkey breed (Serbia) and to explore the possible age dependence of the parameters tested. Inter-breed similarity of morphometric parameters was assessed by comparing the data obtained for the Balkan donkey with morphometric measurements of several previously characterized domestic donkey breeds. The study population included 74 donkeys, divided in two age groups (group A ≤ 3 years; group B > 3 years). In total, 18 morphometric, 13 hematological and 14 biochemical parameters were assessed. Significant morphometric differences (p<0.05) in body length, head length, chest circumference and body weight were found between the two age groups. Significant differences in morphological parameters were revealed among the Balkan donkey and other donkey breeds (Catalonian, Croatian and Albanian), but results of cluster analysis demonstrated the smallest distance between the Balkan donkey and Albanian donkeys. The results of morphometric analyses showed consistency of the obtained values within the breed, and diversity as compared to other donkey breeds, and, thus, could be taken as referent for the Balkan donkey. Hematological and biochemical profiles obtained for the Balkan donkey were consistent with previous reports and within the recommended reference ranges. White blood cell, mid cell and granulocyte counts, showed significantly higher (p<0.05) values in donkeys under 3 years of age, while the only biochemical parameter affected by age was alkaline phosphatase. The information gained through characterization of the Balkan donkey breed provides a basis for conservation and development of the breed standard.
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