Monday, January 21, 2008

Why Mules? A little Mystique...

Mule is a term that describes any type of hybrid cross (plant or animal), the most common of which is the product of a horse and a donkey. The product of this cross inherits its brains and tenacity from the donkey parent, and its power and athleticism from the horse parent. This long-eared hybrid is adored or scorned among equine lovers--but seldom will you hear the subject discussed in nuetral terms. Love it or hate it, the mule made America. She farmed our land, hauled our lumber, drained our swamps, took us to church and war. From my youth, stories of the mule informed my fascination and I hope to share a few of those over time--from Porter Rockwells famed ability to capture outlaws by mule, to the Borax 20 mule team.
Here are some nuggets to bait your own curiosity:

George Washington played a major role in the development of the Mule in America. He was an excellent horseman, but felt horses "ate too much, worked too little, and died too young". In order to obtain an animal that better suited his needs, Washington imported jackstock from Spain and France to start his mule breeding program.

Between 1883 and 1889, a few twenty-mule teams hauled more than 20 million pounds of borax out of Death Valley for the Borax company. During this time, not a single animal was lost, a considerable tribute to the stamina and smarts of mules when you account for the heat, hairpin turns and rugged terrain they had to endure over the 10 day, 330 mile round trip. Borax's 20 mule team has since become its own historical icon.

During the frontier years, Missouri was the leading producer of quality mules. For a time, 45% of all farms in Missouri produced or used mules.

Mules and the quality jackstock that produced them nearly faded into the annals of history after the car and mechanized farm equipment entered the scene. A few enthusiasts began the process of restoring the breeds in the late 1960s and early 1970s. An increase in mule popularity, particularly over the last ten years, has fostered a dramatic improvement in the quality of saddle mules by improved quality jackstock, careful breeding to foundation horsestock, and the formation of registries to help breeders target desired genetic traits.

Mules are stronger than horses of similar size and have considerably greater stamina, making them ideal pack animals. Their reputation for being stubborn comes from their heightened sense of self preservation- they can't be readily fooled or goaded into putting themselves at risk. Concessionaires in the Grand Canyon have a 100 percent safety record with their mules taking inexperienced riders into the canyon along its narrow, cliffy trails. Consider the following interesting points about mules:

  • Legend says they live longer than horses (up to 30 and 40 plus years)

  • Fact says they cannot reproduce, but there may be exceptions (Donkeys have 62 chromosomes, and horses have 64; leaving Mules with 63, an odd number, and therefore sterile)

  • Legend says they can work harder for longer and do it with less food or water. On average you can feed 2 mules for every horse.

  • They can clear 7 to 8 feet from a standing jump--commonly measured feats in competitions around the country.

  • Legend says they have thicker skin and are more resistant to HEAT, cold, and the elements

  • Their hooves are better suited to rugged, ledgy country.

  • Personal experience says they are VERY intelligent, show enhanced personality, and form more of a bond with humans than horses--on the flip side, they don't easily forgive or forget.

Todays quality mules compete in every equine sport--from racing to calf roping to Dressage. They come in every imaginable variety--from thoroughbred racing types to quarter horse saddle types to the very proper Tennesee Walker mule. Well trained, quality mules tend to hold above average value--even with this year's softening of the horse market. Properly trained, well bred mules are still a challenge to find, in my opinion. The best mules are often traded amongst acquaintances and never see the open market according to many insiders I have queried.

In my own quest to find good mules for my family, I settled on making my own after serendipitously finding a superior quality StudJack out of Missouri named Utah Scooter Rusty Sugarcreek, or just "Rusty."


WoW said...

Welcome, welcome, what a pleasant surprize. Interesting and exciting information. You take after your mother in unusual projects, but you probably got your interest in mules from your good friend Darrell. Love you WoW

Paul said...

Oh yea! Can't wait to talk about Darrell Tyler...

cindmo said...

Hey! We love our Flying I Donkey Odie! (=

Paul said...

We'll have to share some pics and stories about Donkey Otey. He is destined to be a star breeder in ST George... :)

stranded on crazy island said...

Justin is so cool but he cleans donkey poop and horse poop against his own will. Save him before it's too late.

BonBon said...

How fun!!!! I can't wait to hear more about your horsies! I especially think you need to write about the middle-of-the-night waterings they get!

BonBon said...

We want pictures of their middle-of-the-night feedings too.

sharbear said...

Welcome aboard. We look forward to hearing more about your mules. You have quite a knack for writing.
Love ya,

Paul said...

Nice try "Stranded on Crazy Island." Better be done when I get home or else...

Anonymous said...

we are slaves.....SOS! Help! My dad makes us work! We have to feed water and clean!!!

DonkeyTeach said...

Hello. Sorry, but this one is the only way I've found to comunicate.
I'm requesting permission to links to your pictures and web.
My name is Gabriel and living in Ibi (Alicante) Spain.
I'm collecting information about "Donkeys & Mules", and have found very interesting and beautiful pictures and texts in your sites. If you let me show your photos with links to your web site, it will be fantastic.
Thanks you in advance.
Gabriel Lazcorreta.

Gabriel Lazcorreta said...

Requesting permission to links to your images and sites.

Sorry but not found other way to comunicate with you.
My name is Gabriel and living in Ibi (Alicante) Spain.
I'm collecting information about Donkeys and mules, and have found your very interesting images and texts in your sites.
I respect very much animals, and never will post anything that attempt against them. If you let me show your images with credits and links to your sites, it will be fantastic.
Thanks you in advance.

Gabriel Lazcorreta.