Friday, April 15, 2011

Give me a "M"!

Today "M" stands on my blog for MULES. 
A mule is the result of the mating of a male donkey (jack) and a female horse (mare) to produce a hybrid. The much rarer hinny is the result of mating a female donkey (jennet) with a male horse (stallion) although the hinny is much harder to produce than the mule. The jennet's reproductive system is more efficient at detecting and eliminating foreign DNA than the mare's is. The hinny conception rate is lower and the miscarriage rate is higher. It really isn't possible to distinguish a mule from a hinny by appearance. Mules are anatomically normal and show normal breeding behavior unless gelded (castrated) early in life. Mules are sterile due to an uneven chromosome count. There are have been a very few rare cases since the 1500s where female mules have been known to produce a foal when mated to a stallion or jack. Males are completely sterile, and as an old muleman said,"Ain't nothing meaner than a stud mule!" Mules are commonly found around the world in any area where there are donkeys and horses inhabiting the same environment. Mules have been bred by humans for use as riding and pack animals, and for ploughing or any work one does with horses. The mule's body type and temperament depend on the breed of mare and jack used. Huge draft mules are created by breeding draft horses such as Belgians to Mammoth jacks. They have the size and power of the draft horse with the mule's ability to tolerate heat and less feed. Racing mules are produced using Thoroughbred mares, and trail mules are often produced from Quarter horses, Paint horses, and Appaloosas. Mules come in any horse or donkey color or combination of both. A mule is easily distinguished from a donkey by looking at the tail. A mule's tail is haired all the way to the top like a horse's tail; a donkey's tail has a tuft on the end like a cow. They compete successfully with horses in all venues including dressage. The mule has the patience, endurance, sure footedness, sense, and drought tolerance of the donkey, combined with the size, speed, strength and courage of the horse. Operators of working animals generally find mules preferable to horses as mules have harder skin that is less sensitive than that of horses, meaning that mules can deal with climate extremes such as strong sun and rain more easily. They require less food and water than a horse of the same size. The mules hooves are harder than horses hooves, and both the mule and the mules hooves show a natural resistance to disease and insects.

Even though we have 9 mules at the DSC I can honestly say I don't know to much about them, probably because they are more like horses, and I am a little apprehensive about horses, but I have made a conscious effort to get closer to the mules, and well I have totally fallen in love with the handsome Hummer and little Molly. Hummer is a very big mule, beautiful in colour and just an absolute beautiful creature.  We have actually bonded quite nicely over the fence, he comes up to me and puts his big heavy head on my shoulder, loves when I rub his face and just closes his eyes and enjoys the moments. He also likes to play with the zipper on my coat, always trying to pull it down and when I zip it back up, he does it again and it can go on and on. 
Molly is just the sweetest little thing, she looks like a pony, is all white and very shy. I think the difference to why I don't have the bond with the mules is that they are a lot more shy and more timid than the donkeys, they are in some way so much more horse like and spook easily. I can't wait to go down to the barn this week, as Danny boy, the mule is on  the special needs side, so we will see how that goes with people all around him all the time. Danny holds the lowest rank in the mule hierarchy and has a hard time with the other mules at times, so I guess in the winter he didn't get enough food with the constant fight for a spot around the feeder so he needs to be fattened up a little in the barn yard side. Another chance to bond with a mule. So looking forward to that.
Handsome Hummer

Sweet Molly


Joan said...

I love all this education!

Cat said...

I don't know why, but the picture you have of Hummer, makes me think he is deep in thought. Maybe about zippers? Or opposable thumbs...