Rural Heritage Mule Paddock

How to Buy a Mule
by Betsy Hutchins

Buying a good mule is harder than buying a horse because fewer mules exist compared to horses and many trainers do not know how to train mules. Improper training ruins too many good-looking mules with good dispositions. Experienced gentle, bomb-proof mules are greatly valued by their owners. Well-mannered mules are no more readily sold than comparable horses, or are sold to friends of the owner without advertisement.

Before setting out to buy a mule, decide what qualities you want and need. As with any equine, various mule characteristics suit various people. If you want a high-quality show animal you need an entirely different animal from the safe, reliable mule suitable for a beginner.

Some folks want as much decoration as internal qualities. I frequently get requests like, "I want an Appaloosa mule (loud colored). It must be 16 hands, female, between 3 and 7 years old, with excellent conformation, well trained, gentle, and good for show."

You may want a mule fitting that description, but your odds of finding a mule exactly matching such a description are much lower than finding a mule approximately matching the description. You may have to settle for a sorrel mule fitting most of your other parameters, or a 14.2-hand Appaloosa.

After you decide on the characteristics you want in your mule, divide the list into what you must have and what you would like to have but could do without. If you must have height and good training, you may have to forego the color or gender. If you must have height and color, you may have to buy a young mule and train it yourself. A beginner might disregard color, size (beyond the minimum needed), gender, and age (ruling out old-and-decrepit). A perfectly trained, gentle, experienced, sound mule willing to tolerate mistakes will be safe and enjoyable for a beginner.

Next find a place to look for mules. Don't go to a sale and buy the first interesting mule brought into the ring. The Internet is useful for searching out magazines where mules are advertised and organizations that promote mules. If you're looking for a team, check the Mule & Donkey Teams for Sale Directory.

Make a list of people to contact and then start calling. Let everyone you talk to know what you want and what you will settle for, and include an accurate assessment of your own driving or training abilities. Although a dishonest seller will not care about whether your new mule is safe for you, honest breeders and sellers will take into account your level of expertise when telling you what they have. The majority of mule lovers want both their animals and the people who own them to be happy.


Betsy Hutchins is co-founder of the American Donkey and Mule Society from which you may obtain a list of mule breeders in your state for 50 cents. This article appeared in the Summer 2000 issue of Rural Heritage.

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15 April 2012 last revision