Aficionados of mules claim that they are more patient, sure-footed, and long-lived than horses, and are considered less obstinate and more trainable than donkeys. Mules are much more common than the rare hinny hybrid. Although it’s often thought that all these hybrids are sterile, female mules have produced offspring with stallions and jacks, although it’s rather rare.
The size of a mule depends upon the size of its dam. Mules can be lightweight, medium weight, or even, when produced from heavy draught mares, of heavy weight. Hinnies are more limited in size due to their donkey dam, as donkey breeds are generally small. Except for the Mammoth donkey, but it is an endangered breed and breeders are more likely to spend valuable breeding time producing fertile purebred offspring than breeding a Mammoth jenny with a stallion to produce an infertile hinny.
All domestic equines ~ horses, ponies, donkeys, and their hybrid offspring ~ hold a very special place in my heart. When I was 5 years old my family gave me my first pony. He was a small Welsh gelding that I named Pepper because his coat was speckled like pepper. Later I was lucky enough to receive a larger Welsh pony when I was 9 years old and I named her Silver because, yes, her coat was a grey dapple (I’ve never been that creative with naming my beloved animals, and admit to once having a budgie named… um… ‘Budgie’).
In my late teens I rescued a 7-year-old Standardbred gelding from the racetrack because his racing passion had dwindled. His future involved an imminent trip in a truck to a certain doom. So I bought him. They only charged what they would have gotten from the meat-truck: $750 even though only three years earlier he’d been worth $70,000! I worked with him everyday to help him adjust to having someone on his back. Three years later, I found him a wonderful home with a young rider whose family had the room and means to care for him for the rest of his life.
While I have not yet had the pleasure of knowing a mule or a donkey, I had a friend in elementary school who absolutely adored her mule-mare that she raised from a foal. I enjoyed many tales about the intelligence and personality my school friend found in her beloved equine companion.
If I didn’t live so far away, I would enjoy booking a time to tour her farm and visit with my blogging friend Melody at The Donkey Whisperer Farm Blog. Click link to visit her blog filled with strength, spirit, and a tremendous love of her equine friends. She adores horses and mules as well as her beloved donkeys. Check out her huge blogroll for many equine-related sites to visit! I especially enjoyed this informative post about feed: Hay, Hay, Hay. I also recommend a visit to her comprehensive website at the Donkey Whisperer Farm: “A Natural, Spiritual, and Holistic Approach to Equine Training”.
Once I have my ‘dream acreage’ there will not only be horses, but ponies, donkeys and mules as well. And a Hinny if we can be so lucky! Okay at least one horse and one mule companion, as a minimum. That’s my dream anyways!
Some Terminology and Distinctions
Dam ~ female parent
Sire ~ male parent
Foal ~ young equine
Weanling ~ a foal about 6 months, weaned (and often separated) from its dam
Yearling ~ a young equine in its second spring, about one year of age
Pony ~ small breeds of horse, maximum 14HH at the withers (56 inches)
HH ~ Hands-High, ‘hands’ coming from when the height of a horse was measured with the width of a man’s hand, stacked, with hands being an average of 4 inches wide. One ‘Hand’ equals 4 inches.
Withers ~ highest part of an equine’s back, at the base of the neck above the shoulders.
Mare ~ a female horse or pony
Stallion ~ a male horse or pony
Gelding ~ a gelded male horse, pony, donkey or mule
Jack ~ a male donkey
Mule ~ hybrid offspring of a mare and a jack
Hinny ~ hybrid offspring of a jenny and a stallion
Molly or Molly-mule ~ common names for a female mule
John-mule ~ common name for a male mule
Note: There are even more variations and cross-overs in terminology than covered here. For example, one variation is in Ireland: a hinny is called a jennet (sounds like jinnet). And another variation is that male mules are sometimes called jacks. But at least this is a starting point if any reader is a budding equine enthusiast and wants to learn some of the lingo!