|Allan Anderson. Remembering the Farm. Memories of Farming, Ranching, |
and Rural Life in Canada Past and Present. Toronto: Macmillan of Canada, 1977.
|The World Book Encyclopedia. Field Enterprises Educational Corporation, 1970.|
Mules are the result of mating a male donkey with a female horse. As a result, they have an uneven number of chromosomes and cannot reproduce. (A cross between a female donkey and a male horse is called a hinny, and these animals are not as highly prized.) According to a fascinating article "Riding High. Mules in the Military" by Susan Orlean (The New Yorker, February 15 & 22, 2010), a mule can carry as much as 300 pounds, 7 hours a day, 20 days straight, without a complaint. They've been found to be smarter than horses. George Washington owned some of the first in the U.S., sired by a donkey he had received as a gift from the King of Spain. In the subsequent 150 years, mules were put to work on the farm doing all sorts of work in return for, in William Faulkner's words, "the privilege of kicking you once." In the 1930's there were over 5 million mules in the U.S. and the military used a lot of them during World Wars I and II. By the 1950's, mechanization had largely replaced them and their numbers had dropped to about 2 million. They are now being given a second chance as riding animals, especially for middle-aged women who have undergone knee-replacement surgery. Mules give a smoother ride, are easier to care for, are cheaper, and give about 25 good years compared to 15 for horses.