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Monday, July 13, 2015


EQUUS CABALLUS (female horse) + EQUUS ASINUS (male donkey) = 


Mules have been bred and used for centuries as draft, pack, and riding animals. Mules are mentioned in the Bible and appear in Assyrian bas-relief.

Here in Missouri, we consider the mule ours. The first mention of mules in Missouri can be found in newspaper articles printed during the early Santa Fe trading expedition. Between 1870 and 1900, Missouri was the leading breeder in number and quality. In 1889, there were 34,500 mules foaled in the state of Missouri alone out of a total 117,000 in the United States. Of the 330,000 sold, Missouri alone supplied 68,300.

The Missouri Mule was adopted as the state animal of Missouri on May 31, 1995. Nearly two hundred years before, the mule was already making a huge impact on the state. From the early 1800s to the early 1900s the mule played a central role in farming and land development. In 1870, Missouri was the largest mule-holding state in the nation, a position it held until 1900.

The typical Missouri Mule is a cross between a mare of a draft breed and a mammoth jack. This produces a stout, strong animal that is more easily managed and more agile than his draft horse cousins. [The picture to the right shows 19 hands and 1,900 pounds of MULE.]

With its short thick head, long ears, thin limbs, small narrow hooves, and short mane, the mule shares characteristics of a donkey. In height and body, shape of neck and rump, uniformity of coat, and teeth, it appears horse-like. The mule comes in all shapes and sizes, from those that look like huge draft horses and sturdy quarter horses, to shaggy ponies and race horses.

From it's donkey sire, the mule gets intelligence, sure-footedness, toughness, endurance, disposition, and natural cautiousness. From its horse dam it inherits speed, shape and structure, and agility. Mules are known to have a higher cognitive intelligence than their parents.

A mule doesn't sound like a donkey or a horse. Instead, it makes a sound that is more like a whinny ending in a "hee-haw." Mules have been known to whimper.

Mules are preferable to horses because they have more patience with heavy loads, their skin is less sensitive so they are better in sun and rain. Their hooves are harder and they aren't as susceptible to insects and disease.  And farmers working in clay soil found mules to be better plow animals.

Mules come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, from miniatures weighing less than 50 pounds to maxis over half a ton. Their coats come in the all the varieties as those of horses—sorrel, bay, black and grey, white, roans (both blue and red) palomino, dun and buckskin, even paint, though they’re much less common. And appaloosa mares produce mules with even wilder colors than their horse cousins.

Mules have been a favorite of our nation's leaders as well. George Washington was an excellent horseman, but felt horses "ate too much, worked too little, and died too young." Washington imported jackstock from Spain and France and began breeding his own mules.

And Missouri native, President Harry S. Truman, often bragged about the amazing Missouri Mules. As the proud son of a horse and mule dealer, Truman invited a four-mule hitch from his hometown of Lamar to drive in his 1948 inaugural parade up Pennsylvania Avenue.

Here are a few terms I think you might find interesting:
Draft Mule = mule offspring from a draft horse mare
Hinny = hybrid of a stallion and a jenny
Horse Mule = proper term for a male mule
Jack = intact male donkey
Jenny = female donkey
John = informal term for a male mule
Mammoth Jack = jack at least 56" tall at the withers
Mare Mule = proper term for a female mule
Molly = informal term for a female mule
Mule = hybrid of jack and a mare
Muleskinner = driver of a hitch of mules


I hope you'll join us at CHRISTMAS IN JULY, July 24-31. Two of my River's Bend stories, WANTED:  THE SHERIFF & NO LESS THAN FOREVER, will be release in one duo volume. Watch Facebook for the big announcements!

Tracy Garrett


  1. Completely overwhelmed with this wonderful information. WOW. I was aware of Missouri mules and the reputation they had, but never thought through what was really involved. Thank you for this lesson. It will come in hand, I know. Doris McCraw/Angela Raines

    1. You're quite welcome, Doris! I'm working on a River's Bend novella and the heroine has a couple of mules. Research! :)

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  3. Great post Tracy! I always get confused about horses, donkeys and mules. You presented it very clearly.

  4. Thank you for this great post. It got into some of the finer points of types of mules. The definitions were helpful. That photo of the 19 hand high mule is impressive.

    Robyn Echols w/a Zina Abbott

    1. Zina, he was small compared to some. But I guess when you cross a draft horse with a mammoth donkey, you're going to get some big mules.

  5. I have a friend whose mules are quarter horse and mammoth Jack--beautiful and big!

  6. Thanks for this information, Tracy! I'm not that familiar with mules, but the few I have known were smart -- and sarcastic. I've always wondered why they don't get the respect horses enjoy. They're intelligent, funny, and just as pretty in their own way as horses are in theirs.

  7. What I knew about mules before was, well, nothing. So thank you for all this useful information, Tracy. Sending good things to your corner...

  8. What fabulous information and gorgeous photos. I love me a mule! Thanks, Tracy. 💗