What Is a Mule?
A mule is an animal that has a donkey for a father and a horse for a mother. Mules have no offspring of their own. A mule looks a bit like both parents. Like the donkey, a mule has long ears, a short mane, a tail with a tuft of hair at the end, and a braying voice.
From its mother it gets a large, strong body. Mules are “more patient, sure-footed, hardy and long-lived than horses, and they are considered less obstinate, faster, and more intelligent than donkeys.”
The mule is valued because, while it has the size and ground-covering ability of its dam, it is stronger than a horse of similar size and inherits the endurance and disposition of the donkey sire, tending to require less food than a horse of similar size.
Mules also tend to be more independent than most domesticated equines other than the donkey. Mules are used for work animals, and very seldom for riding. A mule may not be so pretty as a horse, but it can do more work in a day.
Handlers of working animals generally find mules preferable to horses: mules show more patience under the pressure of heavy weights, and their skin is harder and less sensitive than that of horses, rendering them more capable of resisting sun and rain.
Their hooves are harder than horses’, and they show a natural resistance to disease and insects. Many North American farmers with clay soil found mules superior as plow animals. Today, one tractor can do the work of many mules, so farmers don’t need to use many work animals any more.
A male mule is properly called a horse mule, though often called a john mule. A female mule is properly called a mare mule, though often called a Molly mule. A young male mule is called a mule colt, and a young female is called a mule filly
A mule does not sound exactly like a donkey or a horse. Instead, a mule makes a sound that is similar to a donkey’s but also has the whinnying characteristics of a horse (often starts with a whinny, ends in a hee-haw). Sometimes, mules whimper.