Friday, November 18, 2011

The Hard Working Mule

Mules, the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse, are purely domestic animals that are primarily bred for labor and show. Their popularity as working animals comes from the opinion of many who claim that they are more capable than similarly-sized horses and more intelligent and good-natured than donkeys. Also commonly referred to as mules are the offspring of male horses and female donkeys, which are called hinnies; however, they are much less common. Almost all mules are infertile and therefore incapable of reproducing.
Photo: Joe Schneid
Most mules weigh between 800 and 1000lbs and can carry 20% of their body weight in cargo. While this does not exceed the carrying capability of a horse, mules usually have greater endurance and require less food than a horse of similar size. The appearances of mules can vary greatly in how horse-like or donkey-like they look. Generally, the mule has the short head, long ears and thin limbs of a donkey, but shares the height and body shape of a horse. Mule coats can come in almost as many colors as horse coats. However, in comparison to a horse the mule will have harder skin and is better adapted to harsh desert environments.

Most consider mules to be more intelligent than either their donkey or horse parents. They are patient and even-tempered, and unlike some domestic animals will not allow a human to put them in harm’s way. Because of their nature they were considered to be superior plow animals before the advent of mechanized farming.

The need for mules dropped sharply in the mid-20th century in industrialized nations. However, they still see wide use in less developed nations as well as in the recreation industry for wilderness treks. Mules have also long been a component to the U.S. Military and are still used by American troops to transport supplies in rough and remote areas.
These extremely resilient animals are as long-lived as they are intelligent, and may reach the age of 50.

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