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What is a Mule?





All About MULES!           

The Mule is a cross between a donkey stallion (called a jack) and a horse mare. Hinnies are just the opposite - a stallion horse crossed to a donkey jennet. For all purposes, hinnies and mules are classified and shown together under the general term Mule. A mule or hinny may be a male (horse mule or horse hinny) or a female (mare mule or mare hinny).  Sometimes horse mules (the males) are called Johns, and the mares are called Mollies.  Both male and female mules have all the correct "parts" but they are sterile and cannot reproduce.  A VERY few (about 1 in 1 million) mare mules have had foals, but these are VERY, very rare.  No male mule has ever sired a foal.  SO if you cross a mule to a mule - you get nothing!  Mules and hinnies must be bred by crossing a donkey and horse every time.  (Male mules should also be
castrated, since they are sterile.  They can become dangerous with too many hormones, so should always be castrated.  You can't show an intact male mule, anyway, and it is useless to keep them a stallion).

Mules ears are usually somewhat smaller than a donkeys, longer but the same shape as the horse parents. The mule's conformation will be a combination of traits from both parents. The head, hip and legs usually take after the jack. Mules do not have pronounced arches to the neck, even from breeds such as Arabians or Warmbloods. A slight arch or straight neck is preferable to a ewe, or upward curved neck.

The mule will have "combination hair", usually a thin forelock, coarse mane hair, and a tail more like the horse parent. Both mules and donkeys are shown with a variety of hairstyles from clipped to shaved (roached). Mules may wear their tails "belled" as decoration, left long and full, or clipped at the top to emphasize the shape of the hip.

Mules try their best to imitate the donkey's bray, but most have a unique sound that is a combination of the horse's whinny and the grunting of the wind-down of a bray. Most will start out -               Whinee.....and end in "-aw ah aw".   Every mule or hinny will have a unique bray.
                Mules usually have brown or tan-colored points, where in the  donkey the Light Points are a shade of off-white. Some donkeys and mules do not exhibit any light points at all - this is not usual (due to a recessive gene) , but is a good identification marker for registration purposes. Old-timers used to call a dark muzzled mule "blue nosed". Mules can be any of the colors that either horses or donkeys come in, along with some unique variations of their own.

The only colors mules do NOT come in is true horse pinto (due to the genetic factoring of these colors, there are some mules who are close to, but not quite, tobiano patterned, and none recorded in overo). Mules from Appaloosa mares often have extremely loud patterns, with spots enlarging or "skewing" in variants of the horse appaloosa. Breeders wishing for a mule with four white feet should try a tobiano mare. The mule will probably have four socks and/or stockings, with the most usual combination being four white feet and a splash of white on the tail. The genes of the mule seem programmed for the unusual, and very strange, loud spotted pinto and appaloosa variants are common. In fact, the best way to produce a spotted mule is to cross a spotted jack to a solid colored mare. The resulting mule may have pinto-like patches in a variation of the donkey-spot pattern. Appaloosa mares crossed to spotted jacks have often produced mule foals that appear to be roan-patched pinto, with dark leopard appaloosa spots over the dark areas.

             Mules come in every size and shape imaginable. Miniature mules (even to under 36") can be seen all the way up to 17 hand Percheron draft (by Mammoth Jacks) Mules. The Poitou donkey was used exclusively for breeding huge draft mules from a breed of draft horse called the Mullasier - the Mule producer. The build of the mule is a combination of both parents. The head resembles both, the eyes being more almond-shaped (inherited from the D-shaped eye socket of the donkey). Male mules may have more prominent brow ridges like those of most donkey jacks. The neck is straight and has little arch, even in mules from Arab or Warmblood mares. The overall body shape will be dependent on the conformation of both parents. Due to hybrid vigor, the mule has the possibility of growing taller than either parent.
The rarer Hinnies are often said to be more horselike than the mule, but more often it is impossible to tell them apart. Hinnies may tend to be slightly smaller, simply because of the fact that most donkeys are smaller than horses.  Mules can be used in exactly the same sports as horses - under saddle, in harness, for cutting, roping or dressage. In actuality, they have more stamina and can carry more weight than a horse of equal size. This is due to the hybrid vigor. There is one particular aspect where the mule actually outshines the horse, and that is high-jumping. Mules have a particular sport all their own called the Coon Hunter's Jump. It stems from the raccoon hunter moving his saddle and pack mules through the woods. Wooden or stone fences could be taken down, but wire ones could not. The hunter would flag the fence with his coat or a blanket, and jump his string of pack mules over one by one. In the showring, mules jump a single rail standard to increasing heights. The last clean jump is the winner. Mules only 50 inches tall at the withers have been known to clear jumps of up to 72 inches. These  jumps are not from a galloping approach, like Puissance, but  from a standing start inside a marked area. Truly a remarkable  feat.

                Mules are not really stubborn. They can seem lazy because they will not put themselves in danger. A horse can be worked until it drops, but not so with a mule. The "stubborn" streak is just the mule's way of telling humans that things are not right. Mules are very intelligent and it is not a good idea to abuse a mule. They will do their best for their owner, with the utmost patience.


The information provided on this page and website is (c) by the ADMS.  Permission is granted to copy for educational purposes (ie school papers, 4-H work, general education websites, fairs, expos) provided that the work is sited as provided coutesy of the American Donkey and Mule Society.  (c) 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004



About Mules

As mules gain in popularity, many people are looking at them for the first time. If you don't see your question answered here, email and we'd be glad to help if we can.

What is a mule?
A mule is a cross between a mare and a jack (donkey stallion). A cross between a stallion and a jennet (female donkey) is a Hinny. Mules are male and female, just like horses, with all of the sexual organs, so females (called mollys or mare-mules or jenny-mules) do cycle and males (called johns, jack-mules or horse-mules) need to be castrated or they will get stud-y. However, donkeys have 62 chromosomes and horses have 64, so mules have an uneven number, 63, which makes them a sterile hybrid. They do not reproduce.

Are mules stubborn?
What is often called subborness in a mule is a mule's ability to think independently and an ingrained sense of self preservation. Mules have a more complex reasoning ability than most horses and this is what makes them more reliable in hairy situations. Their unwillingness to place themselves in danger is usually to their riders benefit. Many mules will attach themselves to a human with dog-like devotion and will do anything that person asks them to do overriding their reluctance to do something.

Do mules kick?
Of course, but with more discriminaltion than horses and with a lot more accuracy. There is nowhere in 360 degrees and several feet away that a mule cannot reach you, if he wants you. If it is a warning, you will be expertly tapped. A mule will always have a reason, and if it was not a good reason, then this is a good time for discipline. Once a mule knows that kicking is not acceptable, he will probably never try it again. If he continues to kick- you definitely have the wrong mule. Would you keep a dog that bites you?

Are mules hard to train?
Mules are very intelligent. They think over what they are being taught and so it may sometimes take longer to get the reaction that you are looking for. While training a mule, it is very important to "read" the mule's responses and be willing to adjust the training techniques to help the mule understand what is expected. Impatience, force, and abuse will make a mule suspicious and resentful (and might get you kicked). Slower will get you there faster.

Will a mule "get even" if you mistreat it?
There are many stories about mules that have done just that. Mules are not vindictive as such, but mistreatment (abuse) will make a mule wary enough to try to protect himself from further harm. Discipline and abuse are worlds apart, however, and a misbehaving mule will know the difference.


Do you need special mule "tack" for a mule?
Today's saddle mule is very horselike in conformation. They usually have good backs and withers and although any riding animal need a good fitting saddle, it does not necessarily have to be a "mule" saddle. Avoid "mule" bits made of chains and wires. A well trained mule will respond to any bit it is comfortable holding in his mouth, or a bosal or sidepull. (Mules mouths are generally more narrow and may take a more narrow bit.) Cruppers and breeching are generally thought of as "mule" gear, but all pack and saddle animals traveling in steep country will benefit from tack that stays in place.

Can a mule carry more than a horse?
Mules have denser muscling than horses due to their donkey parent. So a mule  will carry more and go farther than a horse of the same size. This type of muscling is also why mules are not generally as quick and fast as a horse.

Is breeding a mare to a jack cruel to the mare?
A mare that is used to donkeys will stand for a jack just like she would for a stallion. It has happened in the wild farther back then we can track. A mare in heat seeing a jack for the first time, may not be quite as enthusiastic. This is a moot point on our place as well as many others these days, as with Artificial Insemination, the mare is sweet talked by a "teaser" stallion and then bred while standing in stocks by a technician. Clean, safe and efficient. 

Will a mare reject a mule foal?
Heck, no. That's her baby

Do molly mules come  into season like a mare does, and if so are they as cranky as a mare? 
Molly mules do come into season, and they are all individuals...  but in our experience molly mules are very quiet about it. Many people ride mollys for years and never know when they are in season. My main riding mule is a molly and occasionally when I am riding her, she will stop as though she is going to urinate and then I realize that there is a horse or something close by that she thinks is cute and she is showing to him. I leg her on, and that is the only indication I have that she is in heat. If there is the occasional molly that gets cranky I would not be surprised, but I have not heard of her. 

Do mules and horses get along?
Every mule had a horse for a mother. Mules love horses. Horses that have never seen a mule may be more standoffish or even mean to a mule. A mule does not have the strong herd instincts of the horse and so will normally back down from a horse. It usually works out.

Will a mule kill a dog or a foal?
Donkeys and wolves are natural enemies. Instead of running, like a horse, a donkey will stand and fight. This is why they are used to guard other livestock. A mule gets this influence and given the right set of circumstances, a mule will stomp a dog, foal, or other small animal. Mules and the family pets will get to know one another, either mock fighting or the dog will learn to stay out of the mule's way. And although many a mule has been reported to have stolen a foal (or even a moose calf) to mother, it is a good idea to keep young foals separate.

Is it true that mules do not founder?
No, mules can and do founder- just not as easily or frequently as horses. Mules tend to be discriminate eaters . They will pick around bad feed and not over eat. There are exceptions, but in general, the expression should have been, "healthy as a mule!"

Is it true that you do not have to shoe mules?
Mules hoof walls are very thick. Many people never shoe their mules. However, if you are doing hard riding in rocky areas or many miles on gravel, it is a good idea to shoe your mule to prevent soreness and cracking.

Mules are as diverse as the breeds of mares that they are bred out of. Quarter horse mules are athletic and often cowy. Thoroughbred mules can run. Arabian mules are great endurance prospects. Draft mules are awesome for pulling. And Gaited mules are caddilacs!

In general, mules live longer than horses.

It should have been- Healthy as a MULE!

There is nothing better than a good mule... 
there is nothing worse than a bad one.

Longears Lingo- Here is a very complete list of donkey and mule terms from ADA.!

Following is a great article that address The Big Question....

Why Mules?
by Paul & Betsy Hutchins

"Why would you prefer a mule to a horse?" mule lovers are asked over and over again. Here are some of our reasons:

Mules endure heat better than horses do.
It has been scientifically proven that the donkey is similar to the camel in its ability, when water starved, to drink only enough water to replace lost body fluids. Most mules inherit this ability. Water founder in a mule is so rare as to be notable when it does occur.

Mules have fewer feeding problems than horses do.
Many farmers keep their draft and work mules together in pens with feed available at all times, yet the mules rarely overeat to the point of colic or founder. Mules from pony mares, however, may grass or grain or road founder, so the idea that a mule never founders is not true. Mules require no fancy hay-just plain, clean, fresh hay suitable for equines. People who buy cheaper weedy hay find that their mules clean out the weeds first.

Mules eat less than horses do.
Mules that are not working usually don't need grain at all. Good pasture or clean hay is the usual maintenance ration, unless extra fat is required for show purposes. Many a man has complained that his mules won't fatten because they won't eat enough, requiring the owner to spend extra money buying richer food to put the fat on. When mules are working, their grain ration is usually about 1/3 less than that of a horse of the same size. Of course, a mule must be fed enough for its size, its metabolism, and the work it is doing.

Mules rarely have hoof problems.
Mules naturally have small, upright, boxy feet-which is part of the secret of their surefootedness. Mules that work on pavement, stony ground, etc. are shod, but most pleasure animals, or mules that work on softer ground, never see a shoe. Regular hoof trimming keeps them just fine. Their feet are strong, tough, flexible, and usually not as brittle and shelly as those of a horse. They have less of a problem with splitting, chipping, and contracted heels.

Mules excel in physical soundness.
Mules last longer, are more "maintenance free," and are less expensive at the vet's office than horses are. Leg problems are far less likely in a mule than in a horse, and when leg problems do occur, they are far less severe. "Why do they stay sound?" wonders Robert Miller, DVM. "Seeking answers... equine practitioners exposed daily to the tragedy of lameness in beautiful horses, look at the mules, run their hands down the tough little legs, and wonder." Not only legs, but wind, "innards," and all other parts of the mule including his hide are tougher and more durable than comparable parts of the horse. Hybrid vigor explains a lot of this; the tough physical and mental qualities of the donkey explain the rest.

Mules live longer productive lives than horses do.
Farm mules average 18 years to a horse's 15 years. When the mule is a companion animal doing lighter work and getting better medical care, better feed, and good management, the mule can give its owner good riding at age 30; 40-year-old retirees are not at all uncommon.

Mules can more easily than horses be handled in large groups.
Mules can be corraled on farms 30 or 40 to a group, or up to 500 in a feeding pen, without the injuries or other consequences commonly seen with horses.

Mules have a strong sense of self preservation.
This is one good reason why mules physically last longer than horses do. If they are overheated, overworked, or overused for any reason, mules will either slow down to a safe pace or stop completely. Mules are not stubborn. Neither are donkeys. Yes, of you want them to work too hard for their own well being, especially in hot weather, they will be "stubborn." We have never heard of a messenger running a mule to death the way legends say they ran their horses! The facts that mules are inclined not to panic, that they think about what is happening to them, and they take care of their own physical well being prevents many accidents that might happen if they were horses.

Mules are surefooted and careful.
Their surefootedness is partly physical and partly psychological. On the physical side, the mule has a narrower body than a horse of the same height and weight. He gets this from the ass side of the family. His legs are strong and his feet are small and neat. This narrow structure and small hoof configuration enable him to place his feet carefully and neatly. On the psychological side, mules have a tendency to assess situations and act according to their views (most of which have to do with self preservation). A mule will trust its own judgement before it trusts yours.

Mules incur fewer veterinary expenses.
It seems odd and unprovable, but to the confirmed mule owner a horse seems to be a vet bill waiting for a place to happen. Hybrid vigor accounts for a good deal of the mule's sturdy health. The toughness of the ass accounts for the other aspects. Perhaps the instinct of self preservation that shows up in such diverse ways as not drinking or eating too much when hot, or not panicking when caught in barbed wire, accounts for the rest. This is not to say that mules never get sick, injured, or otherwise "damaged." It is just that they are tougher than horses and they take care of themselves better.

Mules don't look like horses.
This is the thing about a mule that is most obvious to the casual observer--of course they look different. Well, you see, mule lovers like the look of a mule. We love those magnificent big ears. We love to watch those ears flop in a relaxing rhythm on a placid drive, or prick rigidly forward when the mule spots something interesting. We begin to think there is something wrong with those tiny little useless-looking ears of a horse. We like the mule's look of strength without bulk. We enjoy being different, knowing that a mule will draw attention where only the most outstanding and expensive horse will stand out from the crowd. Everyone looks at a colorful Appaloosa, but everyone "oohs" and "aahs" over a colorful Appaloosa mule. We like they way a mule sounds, too-kinda silly, but fun.

Mules are loaded with personality.
This is the most difficult thing to define. Yes, mules are intelligent. They can be very decided about how they want to do things. They are great at running a bluff, a trait they undoubtedly get from the donkey. All of our donkeys refuse to do anything until they are aboslutely positive that we are going to make them do it, then they give right in and cooperate like angels. Rather than pit your strength against the tremendous strength of a mule, either outthink him or use some physical means to calmly outmaneuver him. By physical means, we mean gadgets-yes that horrifying word. Gadgets that
come immediately to mind are tying up a fore or hind foot; draw reins; twitches; chain leads; etc. Any of these, used carefully to achieve a specific goal, will allow you to call your mule's bluff. Once you do that, you have won. The key to handling mules is to do things simply, calmly, and firmly. Don't lose your temper and don't push too hard until you are ready and sure you can make it stick. The big secret to having a calm mule that never kicks and doesn't have bad habits is to handle it firmly but gently from the time it is born, or from the time you acquire the mule.