Advice for raising mules | Living the Country Life
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Advice for raising mules

We've all heard the expression "stubborn as a mule," and for many of us, that alone is enough to know we would prefer a different species to have around. But given a chance, mules can actually serve as a reliable, highly intelligent, and hardworking animal.
What's with the long face? Mules like this one are extremely handy in rough terrain, making them very well suited to trail rides.

What makes a mule

Mules are the resulting product of a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey). In many ways, you get the best of both species. Mules are typically hardier, stronger, and even smarter than the ordinary horse or donkey, which is why they get a reputation for being so stubborn. They are smart enough to refuse to be pushed to exhaustion or to be put in danger. Mules are also capable of covering rough terrain with less chance of incident than either of their parent species. And their talent as a pack animal and livestock guardian can be a real asset to have around the property.

It's no horse

Be sure you realize that owning a mule isn't the same as owning a horse. Mules consume less feed than horses and are prone to diabetes, especially when given feed that is too rich or put in pastures that are too lush.

"If you've got a job for them to do - plowing or maybe you're going to be working cattle that day - I would grain them. Otherwise, I try to stay away from grain," says Steve Edwards, a mule expert and rancher from Arizona.

Another difference to note is horse halters don't fit mules properly and can cause pain, particularly when you start pulling. Using a mule rope halter can make a big difference in how cooperative your mule is.

Sterility

Because mules are a mix of two different species, they lack the necessary chromosome to reproduce and are always born sterile. They do, however, have functioning parts, so the males still need to be castrated. Oddly enough, one of science's highly contested questions relates to the fact that about one in one million mules have had foals, despite their being born sterile.

The purchase

Mules come in an extremely wide variety of colors and sizes. But before you head out to find the perfect one for you, take a look at your checkbook. You should expect to spend at least $1,200 for a working mule and $5,000 or more for a show mule.

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