Rural Heritage Mule Paddock

What is a Mule?
by Paul & Betsy Hutchins

A mule is the hybrid that results from mating a female horse (mare) with a male donkey (jack). The horse's breed is used to designate the mule's breed; a Belgian mule, for example, has a Belgian mare for its dam. The mare may be any breed, and may be mated to a jack of appropriate size: Miniature Mediterranean (Sicilian) Donkey, Standard Donkey, Mammoth Jack, or Spotted Ass. A mule inherits its size and strength from the horse, and its surefootedness and supreme sense of self-preservation from the donkey. Only rarely does a female, or molly, mule give birth, as most mules are sterile. The five common classes of mule are named according to the ways mules are used:

mini mulesMiniature mules—sometimes called "pony mules" because they are bred from pony mares, stand 40" to 48" at the withers. (A mule standing less than 40" is called a "small miniature.") Miniatures are teamed for pulling small wagons and used as trick mules by rodeo clowns.

Saddle mules—usually 54" or greater in height. As their name implies, they are used primarily for riding.

Pack mules—strong, sturdy, and usually short legged. They weigh 1,000 pounds or more, making them capable of carrying a good deal of weight. They have no height limit, but packers prefer short mules to tall ones because they are easier to load.

Work mules—may be any weight, but they usually range between 900 and 1,300 pounds. They are strongly built and are used to pull wagons and farm equipment, and to do odd jobs around the farm, homestead, and garden. In these animals, soundness and working ability are all-important. Less important are age, looks, conformation, and color—although they are most often a dark color, such as bay, brown, or black.

fjord muleFjord 1/4horseQuarterhorse shetlandShetland, black

Draft mules—large and heavy but refined animals standing 60" high or more, weighing 1,200 pounds or more, and coming in all colors depending largely on the color of the dam; derived by breeding an American Standard Mammoth jack to a draft mare:

belgianAmerican Cream belgianBelgian, sorrel mulesBelgian & Percheron
percheronPercheron, bay percheronPercheron, white shire Shire, black
suffolk Suffolk

Paul and Betsy Hutchins are co-founders of the American Donkey and Mule Society and co-authors of The Modern Mule, from which the above was adapted with permission.

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27 July 2005
25 October 2011 last revision