The Mule

Mules have a bad reputation as being stubborn and mean. But they have been invaluable to man throughout recent history and nowadays have a loyal following of fans. Learn more about the versatile mule. Written by Jayne Pedigo for EquiSearch.
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Mules have a bad reputation as being stubborn and mean. But they have been invaluable to man throughout recent history and nowadays have a loyal following of fans. Learn more about the versatile mule. Written by Jayne Pedigo for EquiSearch.

History of the Mule

Mules have long been popular as pack animals, draft animals and as riding animals. They are versatile, hardy and have few health problems.

Mules played a big part in the westward colonization of Amework the farms and as pack animals. A 20-mule team used to haul borax out of mining areas in Death Valley became a legend and were used until the railroad took over the work of hauling the borax. After their "retirement" the mules appeared at special events, due to their popularity.

From 1775 to 1957 the Quarter Master Remount Service was responsible for procuring and training horses and mules for military use. In World War II, 14,000 mules were used since they were able to travel through thick jungle and rugged mountains that were impossible for vehicles, and even horses, to cross.

Mule Facts

  • A mule is a cross between a male donkey, known as a jack, and a female horse, or mare.
  • A cross between a male horse or stallion and a female donkey (called a jennet or jenny) is called a hinney.
  • Mules are hybrids, and therefore sterile and cannot be bred to each other to produce more mules.
  • Although mules have a reputation for being stubborn, mule supporters agree that this is because of their high level of intelligence and strong instinct for self-preservation. These traits may make them more difficult to train, but may also make them the dependable, loyal companion that their proponents cherish so much.

Mule Characteristics

Mules take characteristics from both parents. They typically have the long ears associated with donkeys, and have sparse manes and tails although usually not as sparse as that of the donkey. Their size and conformation is a combination of that of both parents. When draft horse mares are bred with a Mammoth Jack, the resulting draft mule will display the characteristics of a draft horse, such as size and strength. When a paint or appaloosa mare is used, the resulting mule will often display similar coloring. When gaited mares are used, the resulting mule will often be gaited.

Mule Uses

Today mules are widely popular for many equestrian activities. They are still used as pack and trail animals and can be seen winding their way through the trails of the Grand Canyon<.

Draft and working mules still work on farms and participate in rural heritage events.

Saddle mules are ridden in English or Western tack, they do dressage, showjumping (even without a rider!), western pleasure, reining and cut cattle.

There are several "mule days" events around the country which celebrate the mule and include parades, classes, demonstrations and more.

As you can see, the mule is a versatile animal and does not deserve his somewhat maligned reputation. Mule lovers agree - Mules Rule!