The Mule

by Rachel Hegge

What is a mule?

When a jack [ungelded male donkey] is bred to a mare, the resulting
offspring is a mule; however, flip the equation, breeding a stallion to a
jenny [female donkey] and the foal will be a hinny. Aren’t they the same
thing though? No. Hinnies tend to smaller and more horselike in
appearance, compared to their mule counterparts, though both hybrids come
in every size imaginable from very large draft to miniature crosses. Male
mules are refered to as johns and the females are called mollies.

mule photo
Jose Cuervo [riding
mule type] owned by Rachel Hegge [Reicheru]


How should a mule look?

Overall, the conformation is a grouping of both parents’ traits. The ears
are going to be smaller than the donkey but longer than the horse’s ears
and his or her eyes tend to be more almond shaped like the sire. A mule
tends to be flat backed and when they move, their shoulders move more
vertically than horizontally like the movement in a horse. The hooves are
more U-shaped than C-shaped [like the horse] and they lack chestnuts on
the hind legs. Their manes and tails tend to be sparse and in the winter.
When breeding for a mule, consider the mare’s height and then add and
subtract 2inches off her height. This gives you an idea on how tall the
offspring will grow to. Even the way they sound is an interesting mix of a
bray and a whinny; I personally think they sound like some sort of
dinosaur when they ‘braynny’.


What colors and markings do mules come in?

Every color and pattern except true tobiano and overo patterns; breeders
are even crossing their jacks with appaloosa mares for very loud patterned
mules.


What exactly can a mule do?

Everything a horse can do from pony rides, livestock guarding, and packing
to three-day eventing and mule racing. There are even gaited mules. The
mule definitely out performs the horse in the high jump. Of course, what
your mule will be able to do will depend on how it’s bred, just like with
a horse. In order for you to show your john mule, he must be gelded;
simply because he cannot sire offspring does not mean that he does not
have the levels testosterone found in intact males. This could make him a
danger to his rider and everyone in the showring. Safety aside, there’s no
point in keeping him intact anyway.


Aren’t mules stubborn?

Not at all; when one thinks that their mule is being stubborn, chances are
the mule is just being smarter than its handler. These are very
intelligent animals and won’t put themselves [and often their rider] in
danger. Whether their obstinate behavior is due to their being frightened,
unsure of what is being asked of them, or self-preservation, it all
translates to the mule telling the handler that something is not right.

Famous Mules:
Ruth- Festus’ mule from ‘Gunsmoke’
Blue- from ‘The Waltons’
Gus- from the 1976 Disney movie ‘Gus’
Francis- from the 7 movies about a talking mule, which led to the classic
Mr. Ed television series
Taz- champion racing mule
Idaho Gem- first member of the horse family to be cloned and Taz’s clone

 

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