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Draft Mules

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It wasn't all horses at the Draft Horse, Pony and Mule Field Day in Adams County, Ohio. There were some charming mules, like Loretta and Lucy.

 Lucy, left, and Loretta.  I was agog at the complexity and beauty of the harness. Every chain, every line means something, but it was all a tangle to me. I saw a lot of people figuring out what went where, fussing with this strap and that. Amazing. And jingly.

 A mule is the long-eared offspring of a male donkey and a mare. You can, in one generation, make any kind of mule you want. If you want a quarter horse mule, you mate a male donkey to a quarter horse mare. If you want a miniature mule, mate a miniature donkey to a miniature horse.  This dark team looked like they may have had a Standardbred, the classic dark Amish buggy horse, as their mom.

 A nice matched team of flea-bitten grays.  Mules have an undeserved reputation for being cantankerous, a holdover from the days when a worthless mare with a nasty disposition would be bred to a donkey in an attempt to get something of value out of her. Mules are more highly valued and carefully bred now, and quality parents get quality offspring.

I loved this muledriver's muttonchop..somethings...

He was driving a splendid team of three mammoth mules, likely the offspring of a mammoth donkey and a Belgian mare. Wow, wow, wow, what magnificent strong animals.

A donkey has 62 chromosomes and a horse has 64. Their mule offspring have an uneven number: 63, which renders them unable to produce offspring. So each mule results from a fresh mating of donkey to horse; there is no mule production from mules. Still, the animals have all their equipment, and males must be gelded lest they cause trouble in the paddock.

Mules are not stubborn. Rather, they examine situations carefully before proceeding. They've carried tourists safely up and down the Grand Canyon walls for over 100 years; they are not prone to panic or flights of fancy. They're smart, sensible, careful animals. Many horses tend otherwise.

I hope you've enjoyed this little blast from the past. I'm grateful to live in Ohio, where the Amish culture spreads its gentle influence and keeps such things as mules, buggies, draft horses and antique equipment in our world. I'm glad for the old guys, Amish or not, who still harness up the horses on a Sunday, still sit on the rattly seats and turn the soil behind the massive haunches of draft animals. I hope there will always be some of those old guys around, some younger ones too.

And glorious manmade mules.

Zick Note:  As of Wednesday, October 20, I'll be a Beat Blogger for the megabirdingblog 10,000 Birds.
I've been trying here for almost five years, and I haven't managed to break out into a larger readership. Make no mistake--I treasure you readers who've stuck with me--you are the best, you fill my heart, and I wouldn't trade you for 10,000 casual readers. But I'm beginning to suspect that the only blogs that can garner a large audience are the team blogs, which have daily and even multiple daily posts. I can't do that by myself and still raise my kids and care for my family.

  I like the folks over at 10,000 Birds, and I can't beat 'em, so I'm joining 'em. There are some messages that need a larger audience--tomorrow morning's post is one of them. (I happen to think that great big beautiful mules need a larger audience, but maybe that's why I'm not getting anywhere...) Nothing will change over here, except maybe a few more readers will come see what I'm serving up. A blogger can hope.


All these big name signings to 10kB - it's like they're the Real Madrid or Yankees of nature blogging.

I love what you write here and I'm sure I'll love what you and the rest of the new signings will write there.

Mules are cool too, although I'm really more of a donkey man.

Julie, you don't know me. I've been lurking on your blog for a long time now and loving it. I am co-teaching the Travis Audubon Intro to Birds and Birding class in Austin, TX. All of our students get introduced to you, your blog, and your family. I'm so happy to have you to read in the mornings and am glad to pass along a link to your blog whenever I can.
Here's to many more blog posts!

Best of luck at 10,000 Birds!! I must be honest in saying I've never been to that blog, but I will now!

Now to ask a dumb question about not just the mules but all the working horses/mules. Why the blinders? They definitely like being with one another, I would think being able to see your co-worker/plower would keep them on task, but what do I know? (Not much, actually when it comes to horses--working or otherwise)

P.S. haven't forgotten about the ook bay for iam lay...

Great post Julie! Good info about mules and explaining how they think about things, they are not stubborn. Mules and donkey's are very, very smart.
Little Pokey the donkey will watch when I work the horse and when it's his turn he can do just what the horse did just by watching!
So being called a Smart Ass, is a compliment! LOL

I'm a lurker just like Laurie, and I love your blog. I found your blog through BirdChick's website after beginning to watch birds this summer. I love that although you do spend time talking about birds, you also tell us stories about the wildlife you have saved, your children, your paintings and NPR podcasts, your beautiful 80-acre home, and Chet Baker/Charlie. It's an entertaining but inspirational read that I find twice a week on this blog. Although horses may not be my thing, it's still interesting to hear you describe them and tell their stories, as with any post in which you tackle something I might not be wildly passionate about. I'm glad that you are working to get some more traffic on this site, but I hope you know that there are many people who don't comment but still adore your writings. :)

I second what Jo said.....

You know there are riding mules, too?

Great comment, Jane, from one who has a daily opportunity to compare the intellects of donkey vs. horse. Thinking about a riding mule? :-)

Possumlady, I'm thinking that with all that equipment rattling around behind them, all that gear, and in a situation like this, so many distractions coming from all sides, blinders help keep horses and mules from spooking as things come up alongside them. Spooking is bad, but spooking when attached to thousands of pounds of equipment is doubly bad. Knowing a little bit about horses, I kept marveling that nobody was getting freaked out and tangled up in lines and machinery. What a disaster that would be. Blinkers (or blinders) help prevent that, keeping the horse looking straight ahead and listening to the driver.

And for you kind lurkers, now speaking up: thank you. I know you're out there, whether you comment or not, but it's really nice to hear from you.

I am now going to share what I learned from Reading Rainbow on PBS. Ahem. Mules can see their own back feet; horses cannot. That's why people ride mules in canyons or other steep trails. Seeing all of their own feet makes them very sure-footed.

Is this an eye position thing? I wonder.
But I do harbor a suspicion (all apologies to the many brilliant and extremely careful horses out there) that donkeys might have a bit more going on upstairs as regards personal safety. Anyone?

Thanks to your original post on the draft horse and mules fest I did some research and found a mule fest in Murray, KY just south of me this weekend. It wasn't as big as what you show but what a treat! Yes, there are riding mules and in fact they did some cattle roping with them. I was in heaven going around and petting them all. They were all dears, sure, and steady.

OK I have to come clean and admit that horses have always intimidated me somewhat. I can certainly appreciate their beauty and strength and the thought of wild horses gives me goosebumps but they just weren't one of my things - seems like most young girls go through a horse 'phase'. But man - these mules are gorgeous! I've never seen so many flavors; this makes me want to walk around petting heads and noses. Thanks as always Julie. You can bet I'll be off to 10,000 Birds for your posts there too! Go get em!

We not only have Amish farmers around here with draft/donkey mules, but most of the coonhunters ride mules as well. They are highly intelligent ani-mules.

Posted by holly-the-person October 20, 2010 at 3:07 PM

Once in a a great while, there has been a mule that can procreate. Krause has done it twice. Her first foal is Blue Moon, second is White Lightning. I love that they named the first Blue Moon!

Posted by holly-the-person October 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM
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