(פֶּרֶא, pere.; once [Job 39:5] עָרוד, arod; Chald. [Da 5:21] עֲרָר ardd; Sept. ὄναγρος. [ὄνος ἄγρος]; so the Eastern ὄνος ἄγριος, Photius, Cod. 42:91; Philostr. Apoll. 3:2; AElian, Anim. 5:52), a species inhabiting the desert (Job 24:5; Isa 32; Jer 2:2,4), roaming free (Job 39:5), living on herbs (6:5; Jer 14:6), which is likewise mentioned in profane authors (Aristot. Anim. 6:36; Oppian, Cyneg. 3:184 sq.), and is especially made in Scripture the symbol of a nomadic life (Ge 16:12). The following is a close translation of the poetical description of the wild ass given in the book of Job (Job 39:5-8): Who sent forth [the] wild-ass free? Yea, the yoke-bonds of the onger who opened? Whom I have assigned the desert [as] his house, Even his couching-places [the sun sterile as if] salt. He will laugh at the crowd of the Sty; The hootings of the driver he cannot hear. The quest of the mountains [is] his feed; Yea, after every green [thing] will he seek.
From the frequent and familiar allusions to the wild ass in Scripture, we may conclude it was much more numerous in the countries adjacent to Palestine in former times than it is at present. Though well known by name, the wild ass is rarely now found west of the Hauran (Bashan); nor do we find it in the Sinaitic wilderness. The species which is found east of Syria is the Asinus hemippus, or Syrian wild ass, which differs from the A sinus hemione, the wild ass of Central Asia, in sundry slight particulars of osteology and form. This species was undoubtedly known to the Jews, and is probably the pere of Scripture. The Asinus vulgaris,. or Onager of the ancients, the original of the tame ass, inhabits the Egyptian deserts, and must also have been known. If the species were distinguished from the Syrian one, it may probably be the arod of the Hebrew. Travellers have seen this ass wild in the deserts of North Africa, in small troops of four or five. When riding in the Sahara, they have detected what they took to be antelopes on a slightly elevated mound of sand; then, by their glasses, discovering they had no horns, they suspected they were the horses of Bedawin, who might be concealed behind them, till they allowed an approach sufficiently near to make them out more clearly, when, snuffing up the wind, they dashed off at a speed which the best of horses could not have approached. Tristram saw a wild ass in the oasis of Souf, which had been snared when a colt; but though it had been kept for three years in confinement, it was as untractable as when first caught, biting and kicking furiously at every one who approached it, and never enduring a saddle, on its back. In appearance and color it could not have been distinguished from one of the finest specimens of the tame ass. The Syrian wild ass (Asinus hemippus) in no way differs from the African in habits. All the species of wild ass are more or less migratory, travelling north and south, according to the season, in large herds. The Asiatic (Asinus hemippus) proceed in summer as far north as Armenia, marking their course by grazing the herbage very closely on their march. In winter they descend as far as the shores of the Persian Gulf. In the same manner the African species is only in summer seen on the confines of Egypt, retiring in winter towards the interior. Their habit of congregating at watering-places, and of standing on the watch on any rising ground, are both alluded to in Scripture (Ps 104:11; Jer 14:6). See Tristram, Nat. Hist. of the Bible, page 42. See Ass.