views updated May 21 2018


ONAGER (Heb. פֶּרֶא, Wild Ass; Job 39:5, also עָרוֹד). Two sub-species of the wild ass, the Equus hemionus hemihippus, the Syrian onager, and the Equus hemionus onager, the Arabian onager, existed in the Syrian desert up to the present century. The onager is described as loving freedom (Jer. 2:24) and fearless (Job 39:5–8). Its habitat is in waste places (Isa. 32:44 and Job 39:6), and Ishmael who was to dwell in the desert is called a wild ass of a man (Gen. 16:12). It appears that from time to time efforts were made to domesticate the wild ass. An ancient Sumerian picture shows it harnessed to a wagon, and the Tosefta (Kil. 5:5) forbids the yoking of an ass with an onager. It was sometimes employed for turning millstones (Av. Zar. 16b). It would appear that the wild ass flourished in the talmudic period, and its flesh was used to feed animals in the arena (Men. 103b). In Babylon fields were fenced in to prevent the onagers from doing damage (bb 36a).


Y. Aharoni, Torat ha-Ḥai, 1 (1923), 99–101; Lewysohn, Zool, 143; J. Feliks, Animal World of the Bible (1962), 29–30. add. bibliography: Feliks, Ha-Ẓome'aḥ, 264.

[Jehuda Feliks]


views updated May 18 2018

onager Fast-running animal related to the ass, found in semi-desert areas of Iran and India. The onager is dun-coloured with a dorsal stripe that reaches the tip of the tail. Height at the shoulder: 0.9–1.5m (2.9–4.9ft). Family Equidae; species Equus hemionus onager.


views updated May 14 2018

on·a·ger / ˈänəjər/ • n. an animal of a race of the Asian wild ass (Equus hemionus onager) native to northern Iran.


views updated May 29 2018

onager wild ass. XIV (afterwards not before XVIII). — L. — Gr. ónagros for ónos ágrios (ónos ass, ágrios wild).