A mule is an animal that was bred under artificial conditions by breeders. A mule is a hybrid of a horse and a donkey. The animal was domesticated very quickly and successfully. As a domestic animal, mules were bred in many countries of the world. They are used by man as a labor force to perform hard work. The exact number of these animals is currently unknown. It was these animals that were the heroes of many legends, stories and riddles. It is found in many literary sources under the name hinny.
Origin of the species and description
It is difficult to name the exact period of origin of the animal. The first mention of it falls on 480 BC. For the first time, the mule was described by Herodotus in writing about the attack of King Xerxes on Greece. In order to breed a new animal species, zoologists and breeders crossed horses and donkeys of various breeds.
Most scientists and researchers say with confidence that in the history of breeding new animal species, mules are the most successful. In 1938, the number of these animals was approximately 15,000,000 individuals. They have many undeniable advantages, but are not without some disadvantages. The main and practically the only drawback is the infertility of animals. Geneticists have come to the conclusion that the reason for this phenomenon lies in a specific chromosome set. Mules inherited 32 pairs of chromosomes from horses, while donkeys inherited 31 pairs of chromosomes. The result is an unpaired set.
In this regard, scientists decided to clone this animal. In 2003, the mule was successfully cloned and named Jim. For the first time in large quantities, mules were purposefully bred in America at the initiative of George Washington. People immediately found many positive aspects: endurance, calmness, diligence. After that, the animals were brought to various countries in South and North America, Asia, Europe, Africa, etc. Historical reports indicate that these animals were bred for the purpose of organizing jousting tournaments in medieval Europe. They could withstand knights in the heaviest armor for quite a long period of time.
There is evidence that in 1495 Christopher Columbus bred mules on the continent he discovered. He himself brought the animals he bred to Cuba and Mexico. Since then, females have been used for riding, while males have been used to carry heavy loads.
Appearance and Features
Outwardly, mules have the characteristic features of both a horse and a donkey. They got their stature and physique from the horse, and the shape of the head, not too long limbs, and the neck were inherited from the donkey. The ears are more elongated and longer than those of donkeys, have the shape of a horse. Characteristic horse features are the presence of bangs, mane and tail. Animals have very diverse color options.
Body weight directly depends on the mother's body weight. The color and shade are also determined by the characteristics of the mother. The height of an adult at the withers varies from one to one and a half meters. Body weight is also very diverse, it can balance in the range from 280 to 650 kilograms. In the vast majority of cases, mules are larger in body size and weight than their immediate parents. In this regard, in order to get healthy and strong offspring, breeders select only the tallest and stockiest representatives of existing breeds.
These animals are characterized by sexual dimorphism. Females dominate in body size over males. Mules are characterized by the presence of certain features that are inherent in all individuals, regardless of who the parents were.
- large head;
- eyes almond-shaped;
- low and shortened withers;
- straight, well-defined back line;
- shorter croup compared to horses;
- straight, level neck;
- short, strong limbs with high, outstretched hooves.
Where does the mule live?
Mules are distributed mainly in the territory South America. In addition, they are quite common in various parts of the world.
Geographical regions of the habitat of mules:
- Central Asian countries;
- southern regions of Europe;
- North America;
- South America.
Today, mules are successfully exploited in regions where people are forced to work hard physical labor. Their industriousness, tolerance and unpretentiousness to the conditions of detention are necessary when transporting goods in mountainous areas and hard-to-reach regions. The advantage is that there is no need to shoe animals. They can easily pass in rain, mud, and also on a snowy road.
Mules are often used in Asian countries, as well as within the African continent, where it is necessary to move military equipment. In the old days, with the help of these animals, the wounded were transported from the battlefield, ore, and other minerals were transported. Zoologists note that mules are absolutely undemanding to the conditions of detention. With enough food, they can easily endure cold, frost and arid climates. Animals get used to their owners fairly quickly if they are taken care of properly.
What does a mule eat?
In terms of providing a forage base, mules will not cause much trouble to their owners. Animal breeders compared the cost of feeding horses and mules and concluded that it is much easier to feed mules. For the growth of muscle mass, animals require food in which the protein content predominates.
What serves as a food base for mules:
- fresh vegetables – carrots, corn;
- cereals – oats;
- greens .
As a result of the fact that the mule is a mixture of two other animal species, the food has general similarities with both the horse and the donkey. In the diet, the main share is occupied by hay, or dry grass. The daily rate depends on the body weight of the mule. The average animal needs about 5-7 kilograms of dry grass and 3-4 kilograms of balanced feed daily. If there is none, you can cook it yourself, or simply replace it with fresh vegetables – potatoes, carrots, corn, fresh herbs.
The diet of a small mule must necessarily include at least four kilograms of selected, high-quality hay. As he grows older, his diet expands, vegetables, herbs, balanced ready-made food in small quantities are introduced into it.
Character and lifestyle features
There are many virtues and advantages in the character and demeanor of mules. They are very calm, reserved and hardworking animals. Together with a heavy load or a rider in full gear, they can cover quite a long distance at a speed of 5-8 kilometers per hour. This ability is indispensable for residents of the mountains and off-road, as well as those regions that are far from good, high-quality roads and tracks. It is typical for mules to make certain sounds, reminiscent of a mixture of donkeys along with horse neighing.
Mules tend not only to withstand significant physical exertion, but also to develop quite high speed. Another advantage is strong immunity and high resistance to various diseases. Due to this, the average life expectancy in some individuals can reach 60-65 years. However, it is worth noting that they remain fully functional for 30 years.
The main character traits of the animal:
- high efficiency;
- unpretentiousness to the conditions of detention;
- excellent health;
- ability to easily and without consequences withstand high temperatures;
- submissiveness and obedience.
Despite the fact that animals are undemanding in care and no special conditions are required for their maintenance, they need affectionate handling and care. Animals do not accept careless, mediocre and cruel treatment. Animals are best adopted from a young age. It is best to start accustoming mules to physical activity at the age of 3-3.5 years. In a year and a half, they will get stronger and will be ready for hard work.
Mules are widely used as participants in sports competitions. With their participation, a wide variety of competitions are organized: single races, in teams, etc. The only sport mules can't do — This is an obstacle course that involves jumping over high obstacles. The diet of large individuals can consist of 10-13 kilograms of hay, vegetables, and balanced feed. Adult animals are advised to periodically give oats.
Now you know the difference between a mule and a hinny. Let's see how these hardy animals reproduce.
Social Structure and Reproduction
The biggest and very significant drawback of mules is sterility. They are bred by crossing donkeys and horses. Individuals of the male sex, without exception, are born infertile. Female individuals are also approximately 80-85% incapable of procreation. Zoologists have described cases where female mule were crossed with male donkeys. Scientists also described a case when a female hinny, after mating with a donkey, gave birth to a completely viable cub. This happened in China.
The impossibility of procreation and the birth of offspring is explained by a specific set of chromosomes. In total, the history of the existence of animals has 15 cases when female individuals gave birth.
Interesting fact: Scientists have found that female mules are able to be surrogate mothers and successfully carry and give birth to offspring. This quality is used to obtain offspring from individuals of especially valuable breeds.
Due to the fact that all males are barren from birth, they are castrated at the age of two years. Growing newborn mulattoes does not require almost any special knowledge and skills. The rules for caring for newborns are identical to those for foals. However, there is one caveat. Cubs are quite sensitive to low temperatures. Therefore, in order to exclude various diseases, it is necessary to maintain an optimal temperature.
In the cold season, they must be kept in insulated enclosures. At the same time, no more than 3-3.5 hours a day are allotted for a walk in open areas. In summer, during the warm season, cubs need to spend as much time as possible on pastures. The education and taming of animals must be dealt with from an early age. The average life expectancy of mules is 30-40 years. With good care, life expectancy can increase to 50-60 years.
Natural enemies of mules
Mules do not live in natural conditions, therefore they do not become objects of hunting by predators. Animals have strong immune systems, so they are practically not susceptible to any diseases. However, some problems still exist. As a result of achondroplasia, various mutations of newborn animals develop. Signs of pathology are a short muzzle, small limbs and body size in general.
Animals almost never suffer from pathologies of the gastrointestinal tract, diseases of the limbs, hooves, operational diseases.
In addition to achondroplasia, animals tend to suffer from the following pathologies:
- accidental disease. The causative agent of this pathology is trypanosoma. Signs of this disease are the appearance of plaques on the body, engorgement of the genitals. In severe cases, paralysis of the back of the body occurs;
- glanders. An infection caused by specific bacteria. If diagnosed, treatment is not carried out. Animals are euthanized because of the high danger to humans and other animals;
- epizootic lymphangitis. The infection is caused by Cryptococcus.
With an unbalanced diet, animals suffer from beriberi, as a result of which their working capacity is reduced, hair may fall out.
Population and status view
Mule breeding is practiced in various countries of Europe, Asia, North and South America, Africa . In the sixties of this century, the number of mules was about 13,000,000 individuals. In ten years, it has grown by another 1,000,000. Today, the approximate population size is 16,000,000 individuals.
To date, animals are not so in demand, since in many countries the power of animals has been replaced by automated systems and cars. Currently, in most cases, they are bred not for the purpose of obtaining labor, but for participation in sports competitions. In America, it is very popular to breed animals on private farms as indispensable helpers. Animals that feel the care of their master pay him with full dedication and obedience. They are not afraid of loud sounds, they are distinguished by endurance and calmness.
Mule is an incredibly calm, kind and hardworking animal. They are endowed by nature with strong immunity. A person who becomes the owner of a mule must be patient and caring. In this case, the animal will definitely reciprocate, humility and friendliness. Often the owners note capriciousness, unwillingness to obey the requests and wishes of the owner. Such behavior speaks not of the stubbornness of the mule, but of the wrong, incorrect behavior of the owner in relation to the animal. In this case, it is necessary to reconsider your behavior and tactics of handling the mule.