George Washington is often given credit as being the first
promoter of quality mules in
. It is a fact that
the King of Spain presented
George with two
Spanish Jacks. These
jacks were highly anticipated as it is said that
believed that horses “ate too much,
worked too little, and died too young” to be productive at farm work.
Incidentally, Mr. Bob Bingham of Missouri Mule Company once sold a mule to Donald
Rumsfelt for his wife's 78
birthday. When Bob asked Joyc
e (whilst surrounded by Secret
Service agents) why she wanted a mule, she said "Why, the mule helped settle this country
and I just had to have one!" As of last contact, the Secret Service and Gus the gaited mule
were keeping Joyce Rumsfelt safe.
But I digress… back to the story. George Washington's intentions were
horses, creating a sturdier, hardier equine with a better work ethic. "Royal Gift", as he was
called, was a busy boy, siring mules across the country
. Through the application of hybrid vigor
(the production of specific qualities by intentional crossbreeding), several distinct body types
and characteristics began to arise, depending on the size and gaits of the mare.
Although it is possible to obtai
n hybrids between
, it is noteworthy to mention
that mules and horses are, in fact, two different species and the cross thereof produces sterile
in all but an infinitesimal number of cases
. What does this mean? It means that to
roduce a mule, you
have to start out with one horse, and one
. Specifically, a
Donkey Jack (stud) and a horse mare.
On the flip side, a "hinny" is the term used for the
crossbreed resulting from a female ass (jennet) and a male horse (stallion). Genetically, the
hinny and the mule are the same, however since size is mainly contributed by the mare, hinny's
the smallish side
and does not have as much marketability as a mule does
A horse mule or
john mule (terms for a male mule)
with all his plumbing and the molly mule
comes with all her eggs. They cycle and mate just like the rest of creation. The problem
is in the
genes. It takes 13 genes from each parent to settle (or impregnate) the mare and both mules
have only 12 genes each. So, the chance of a mule reproducing is literally one in a million.
The mule shares a resembla
nce to each of its parents, owing the long ears, short manes and
small feet to the donkey jack but the size of a mule and how it is put to work is largely
dependent upon the breed of the mule's dam. The horse contributes size, speed and muscle
mass to the
hardiness, strength and tendency towards good health exhibited by the donkey.
Interestingly enough, the voice of the mule i
s also a combination of both it
ents, sort of like
a whinny that
in a bray
at the mule's next intake of breath
What do you get when you cross a gaited mare and a donkey?
, some would say.
Mule fans will claim that mules are more patient, sure
footed, healthy and long
as well as more smooth to ride than their
. Since gaited mules are half
will typically be capable of any gait the horse can perform as well as the fast
walking amble of a
donkey. It can (and is) argued amongst the mule community that the most consistent
production of a gaited mul
e weighs most heavily on the mare. Others will argue that they can
produce gait in any mare at all, regardless of breed, if they simply have a good gaited jack.
Large breeding facilities as well as h
obby breeders in decades past are responsible for the
intentional pairing of great
with great mares, resulting in the modern gaited mule.
mares that did not produce a good horse colt were often cast off to be bred for mules
quality of the cross
. Even today, top bred mares from all breeds bred to jacks can
actually have a pedigree for producing mules that are consistent in quality of gait.
competitions are no longer just for horses! Gaited mules
have proven to be
versatility, trail, buggy, wagon, jumping, dressage
, western and english pleasure
There is one competition though, where the mule outshines the horse
. It's a
high jumping spor
t all their own called the
It seems that
would come upon obstacles and fences too sturdy to take down and impossible
for a horse to jump over given the woods terrain (they couldn't get a running start)
would flag the fence with
he had handy, and the mules were able to launch off of the
ground from a virtual standstill. (think a deer jumping a fence)
"Coon Hunter's Jump"
competition, mules jump
to increasing heights. The last clean jump is the winner. Mules
n known to jump at heights equal to their heads, again….from a standing start.
The most popular events for the gaited mule however, gives them a chance to show off their
Officially, a "gaited" mule is any mule that has a smooth gait other than a walk (not to be
confused with a smooth TROT). Common gaits are: Single
trot, rack, flat walk, running
walk, stepping pace, paso fino, and, really, any other smooth gait
that excludes a trot (SMOOTH
being the operative word here)
Why all the effort?
If the added bonus of a potential "Coon Jumper" is still not swaying your mind in the direction
of those big, fuzzy ears as a potential trail partner, chew on this: Mules
tolerate extreme heat
and dry conditions better than horses do. Their surefooted feet rarely need shod and are
typically strong and tough
, making themselves invaluable not only on the flats but in rough
. If you still aren't convinced, consider the
vet bill (or lack thereof) for the typical mule.
Although they have more longevity than a horse, they are often described as being
"maintenance free" thanks to the donkey
and often continue to be good
riding partners into their 30's and
Mules also have a keen sense of self
preservation which is one reason why they are physically
and, arguably, mentally safer
a lot of
A donkey’s intuition is to stand and
fight a predator. Crossing that aptitude with the fli
ght instinct in a mare produces a nicely
minded mule with the flight syndrome mostly removed. This mind set, along with hybrid
has resulted in the
consistently being chosen as the
primary conveyance on the
Grand Canyon Trail. Severa
l sources confirm, not one mule/human accident has
occurred while traversing the Canyon trails for a hundred years.
A mule will slow down or stop
when overworked or overheated, and has a tendency not to panic and be reactive, but to think
lly dangerous situations and act accordingly. Not surprisingly, this is where the
"balkiness" reputation comes into play. What is perceived as "stubborn" though, typically is a
behavior produced simply by caution.
Intelligent and opinionated, a mule wi
ll often require his trainer to outthink or outmaneuver
him in order to achieve a specific goal, making the task of training a mule challenging
. It is said that you "have" to train a mule the way all horses "should" be trained; with
calmness, consistency and clarity.
In other words, training the mule forces you to
stretch your brain and your patience. Personally, I find that a challenging equine makes me not
only a better trainer but a better person in general. It helps me "think ou
tside the box" and flex
my brain power. Are you up to the challenge?
The AWWWW factor
In my humble opinion, there is nothing much cuter than a baby mule. The mature mule though,
garners his own amount of oohs and aahs on the trail. Have you ever noticed
that when a mule
passes by on the trail, everyone has to stop and ogle him, asking tons of questions? Who
doesn't appreciate the comedy of those big ears flopping to the rhythm of his fabulous 4 beat
gait? I recently downloaded a sound byte of a mule bra
ying and my 16 year old son came
running into my office full speed yelling "WHAT is THAT?" He was genuinely alarmed. As it was
around Halloween time, I think he thought someone had sent me a scary email. As I explained it
was a mule braying, he left the
room laughing. I then listened to it a dozen more times. I am in
I don't know if a mule is in my future (my crystal ball is broken), but I can tell you this.. I
want one. Oh yea. I want one.