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The Down Low on Mules and Hinnies
 By Saferaphus   •   11th Jan 2014   •   6,002 views   •   0 comments
The Down Low on Mules and HinniesWhat is a mule or hinny? A mule is the offspring of a female horse and a male donkey. The offspring of a male horse and a female donkey is called a hinny. There are fewer hinnies because it's harder for a donkey to conceive and carry a foal when bred to a horse stallion. Hinnies look more horse-like with slightly shorter ears, and mules look more like their donkey parents with narrower feet and a few other anatomical differences. Hinnies tend to be a bit smaller than mules. However, the size of the offspring of either cross really depends on the size of the parents. Mules and hinnies come in all sizes and body types—from miniature to draft cross. They also come in as many coat colors as horses do.

For show ring and registry purposes mules and hinnies are usually lumped together, despite their subtle differences. One common trait is the inability to reproduce. Horses have sixty-four chromosomes, whereas donkeys have sixty-two. The offspring will have sixty-three, and although they have reproductive organs won't be able to produce foals. There is always an exception to the rule. Very rarely a mule foal will be born. It's estimated that there have only been four confirmed mule births since 1984. The Romans, who actually preferred mules to horses, had a saying “Cum mula peperi” or “when a mule foals” to describe something that was rare or unlikely to happen.

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Why did the Romans, and many others since, prefer mules? A mule is stronger and hardier than an equivalent sized horse. Mules can be less temperamental than horses, which can make them easier to train. They are more sure-footed and less temperature sensitive. Mules have harder hooves and thicker skin. So while oxen were used to pull large heavy loads, mules were preferred to horses for lighter pulling or carrying goods in panniers.

Mules have an unfair reputation for being obstinate. That is because they have a strong sense of self-preservation. A horse might gallop itself to death, but a mule will not. When things are not quite right, a mule will quit. This is a sign of intelligence, not stubbornness. Mule owners also know that they are safer riding a mule, because this natural self-preservation keeps them safe too. A mule won't be coaxed into a dangerous situation as a horse can and their large ears are antennae for animals or humans that its rider or handler might not have noticed.

Today, mules are used for everything horses are. They are seen hitched to dray wagons and elegant carriages and shown in every discipline. Over the long-haul, they've proven themselves superior to horses. In the 1976 Great American Horse Race, ninety-one riders, each with two mounts raced 3,000 miles (4828km) from New York to California. The winner crossed the finish line with his two mules, Lord Fauntleroy and Lady Eloise. Another place mules are superior to horses is in the standing high-jump. Called a Coon Hunter's High Jump, after a manoeuvre practised by raccoon hunters to cross fences, some mules have been trained to jump as high as 6ft (1.8m), from a standstill.
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