By Leslie LaChance
Did you know that a mule is a cross between a female horse and a male donkey (or “jack”)? Here are a few more fun facts about these unusual farm animals from Deb Kidwell at Lake Nowhere Mule and Donkey Farm:
• A male mule is called a john or horse mule. A female mule is called a molly or mare.
• A female donkey is called a jennet and can be bred with a male horse to create a hinny.
• Horses have 64 chromosomes, donkeys have 62, and mules and hinnies have 63.
• Mules are 99.9 percent sterile.
• Though mules can kick in any direction, a well-treated mule is not likely to do so.
• In earlier times, mules and donkeys were so prized by Spanish nobility that royal edicts forbade their export without express permission of the king.
• George Washington is sometimes called “The Father of the American Mule.” He received a gift of a large Spanish jack from King Carlos III of Spain in 1785, and a Maltese jack and two jennets from French General Lafayette in 1786. From these he started the American Jackstock breed. He also bred these jacks to his prize mares to create America’s first quality mules, prized for their hybrid vigor.
• Famous Americans who have ridden mules include Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill Cody, Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan and Ken Curtis in his character as Festus on the television show Gunsmoke. That mule, named Ruth, was actually a male.
• Mules are serving in military missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.