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A mule is the hybrid offspring of a female horse (also known as a mare) and a male donkey (also known as a jack). It has 63 chromosomes from the donkey’s 62 chromosomes and the horse’s 64 chromosomes. Mules can be either male or female and are often sterile. They are sturdy and agile which makes them good beasts of burden.
See the fact file below for more information on the mule or alternatively, you can download our 25-page Mule worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
Etymology and Definition
- The term mule can be used to call any hybrid of a horse (Equus caballus) and a donkey (Equus asinus), but more specifically a female horse and a male donkey.
- A cross between a female donkey and a male horse is often referred to as a hinny, but it can also be called a mule.
- A male mule is called a john.
- A female mule is called a molly.
History of Mules
- George Washington was the one who first saw the value of mules.
- He was an agriculturalist as well as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.
- He was called “The Father of the American Mule.”
- In 1785, King Charles III of Spain gave two jacks and two jennets to George Washington as gifts.
- One of the jacks made it to the country and was named Royal Gift.
- Industrialization led to mules being neglected for agricultural and farming use.
- By the 1960s, the population of mules in the United States declined, with fewer than 10,000 in the country and most of them unused in agriculture.
- However, in 1967, Paul and Betsy Hutchins founded the American Mule and Donkey Society that advocated the protection of donkeys and mules.
- In the last 40 years, mules and donkeys have regained their popularity and found their place back in the world.
- In Bishop, California, there is an annual event called Bishop Mule Days which gathers 700 mules and 30,000 people.
- National Mule Day is celebrated every October 26th, the day a Spanish donkey arrived in America in 1785.
- President Ronald Reagan officially proclaimed October 26th as the date of National Mule Day.
- Mules have short heads, thin limbs, long ears, horse-like hooves, a stocky body, a hairy tail, and a short mane.
- Mules are typically brown, gray, black, or reddish. There are light-colored ones too, but they are more rare.
- The skin of mules is thick and highly resistant to heat and rain.
- The height of mules ranges from 47 to 59 inches.
- Mules are categorized according to size rather than breed.
- They are categorized into miniature mules, saddle or standard mules, and draft mules.
- Miniature mules are up to 50 inches tall.
- Saddle mules are 50 inches tall or more.
- Draft mules are bred from draft horses.
- They weigh around 800 to 1000 pounds.
- Miniature mules weigh less than 50 pounds.
- Mules possess “hybrid vigor” because it gets the best traits of its parents.
- It gets its intelligence and patience from the donkey and its physical ability and speed from the horse.
- The hooves of mules resemble those of a horse but the heels are longer and the hooves are trimmed more upright.
- The smell of mules is different from a donkey’s or a horse’s.
Traits From The Horse
- Mules look similar to horses aside from their long ears.
- Their muscle composition is also different.
- The muscles of mules are smoother than those of horses.
- Both mules and horses are strong animals.
- The mule gets its physical abilities from the horse.
- For its size, mules have more endurance and physical strength.
- They have stronger hooves that are suitable to climbing rough terrain.
- Their hooves are also less sensitive to insects.
- They also have thicker and less sensitive skin than horses.
- They don’t need as much food and water as a horse needs.
- They are able to tolerate a number of diseases.
Traits From The Donkey
- A mule gets its mental sharpness from the donkey.
- Mules, like donkeys, are often perceived as lazy, but that’s just because they are smart enough to have common sense and a natural instinct for self-preservation.
- Once it detects danger, mules tend to avoid it.
- Donkeys and mules are easy to obey humans when they are treated with kindness and patience.
- They are not keen on trusting humans if they are treated harshly and aggressively.
- Mules can either be male or female but they are unable to reproduce because of their odd number of chromosomes.
- Males are always sterile, but there are rare cases when females are able to reproduce when they mate with a donkey or a horse.
- Male mules must be castrated to make them safe and sociable.
- Mules are herbivores, meaning they only eat plants, grass, vegetables, shrubs, and weeds.
- Foxes, lions, and wolves are often the enemies of mules.
- To defend itself from predators, a mule kicks with its hind legs, and it can do so from all directions.
- A mule’s lifespan is 30 to 50 years – much longer than horses.
- The mule was first cloned successfully in 2003.
- The way mules communicate is also a hybrid of donkey and horse sounds. It whinnies like a horse and brays like a donkey.
- Mules also communicate through their ears and tails, which is different from a donkey’s or a horse’s.
Beast of Burdens
- Mules are considered as beasts of burden.
- They are used for transport, riding, and ploughing fields.
- A pack of mules connected together is called a mule train.
- Mules are able to carry 20% of their body weight.
- Mules aren’t just for agricultural purposes but for military use too.
- During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Army used mules to transport ammunition through rough terrain.
- Mules were also used as transport for royalty and clergy in Medieval Europe.
- China and Mexico breed the largest number of mules.
Difference From a Hinny
- Although hinnies can also be called mules, they possess unique characteristics that make them different.
- A hinny is generally slower than a mule.
- The hooves of a hinny resemble a donkey’s while the hooves of a mule look like a horse’s.
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about mule across 25 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Mule worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about a mule which is the hybrid offspring of a female horse (also known as a mare) and a male donkey (also known as a jack). It has 63 chromosomes from the donkey’s 62 chromosomes and the horse’s 64 chromosomes. Mules can be either male or female and are often sterile. They are sturdy and agile which makes them good beasts of burden.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Mule Facts
- Mule Basics
- Traits From Two
- Spot the Parents
- Hinny vs. Mule
- Father George
- History of Mules
- Beasts of Burden
- Mark The Errors
- Mules Are Cool
- Happy Mule Day!
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.