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Unlike canine genetics, we know the nuts and bolts of mule genetics because America was built by the donkey-horse hybrid with the mule’s unique signature bray!


Dog breeder or pet owner, you’ll find mule genetics interesting. Let’s start with the fact that a mule has 63 chromosomes, which is a rare genetic anomaly that splits the 64 chromosomes of a female horse and the 62 of a male donkey.



In fact, it is the mule’s size and strength of a horse plus the endurance of a donkey makes him legendary!


Historians would say that mules are the world’s most useful cross-bred species! Other examples of man-made hybrids such as Ligers (male lion and female tiger) and Leopons (leopard and lion) serve no purpose other than to satisfy human curiosity and our drive to create.


Originating in Egypt sometime prior to 1500 BC, mules helped create America. Christopher Columbus brought mules to the New World of 1776. Stronger and with more endurance than horses, mules hauled the timber that built America’s log cabins and plowed the fields that fed pioneer families.


George Washington is known as the father of the American mule due to his success as a mule breeder after receiving a jackass from the king of Spain in 1785. We had jeeps in 1914 but mules helped us win WW1, carrying food and artillery to the battlefield and safely transporting wounded soldiers.


Useful hybrids that come easily to mind is the Beefalo (Buffalo and Cow) because it is edible and the Bengal cat (Asian Leopard and domestic cats) because it is beautiful and saleable.



Before you wonder, here’s an important genetic fact. The large, powerful, patient and tireless mule is not to be confused with his little cousin the hinny. A hinny is a male horse bred to a female donkey which results in a much smaller foal that is not as useful and therefore, not as common as the mule.


As an incredible example of cross-species success, the mule is used around the world as a beast of burden but more importantly, these exceptionally sure-footed animals safely transport humans across otherwise impossible terrain in war and in peacetime.



The hardiness, strength (and stubbornness) of mules is unique and even today, mules are “The most commonly used working animals in the world, highly prized for their hardiness and docile nature.” Add to that, per Wikipedia, The mule is “the most common and oldest known manmade hybrid.


Indeed! The unique species was created in ancient times in what is now Turkey and mules became fairly common in Egypt by 3000 BCE. The mule’s hardiness, strength and docility is legendary and even in the computerized-mechanized world of 2022, mules are the “most commonly used working animals in the world, highly prized for their hardiness and docile nature.


Lest we ever forget, Mules helped us win WW1…



There are two things for which mules are deservedly famous. They are physically tough beyond the normal but even more remarkable, they are endowed with an exceptionally usually strong sense of Self and self-preservation. A mule knows who he is and until he has decided that another animal or person is trust-worthy, the mule is instinctively defensive.


That’s why mules are famous for kicking, in fact you may remember the term “kick like a mule” which until the turn of the century, was in common use and well understood! Mules are splendid kickers. They kick like lightening and they are accurate. If a mule misses, it is because he intended to. It was a warning in mule language.


And speaking of mule language, if you’ve never heard a mule “talk” you’ve missed something unforgettable! A mule isn’t like a donkey which brays as it breathes in and out (which accounts for the “hee” and the “haw”).


The mule has a whole repertoire of sounds ranging from oinking like a huge hog to wailing like a lost lover. Their braying has been described as a reverberatingly loud noise that sounds like a horse with a cold trying to whinny.


Here is a short youtube video (offsite opens in a window) on Mules that features sounds made by donkeys and mules. EST 1998 © Mar 2022



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