Updated 4:04 pm to add dressage video.
It’s National Mule Day. Let’s pay tribute to this multi-faceted and much used equine.
National Mule Day is recognized each year on October 26.
A mule is a hybrid cross between a male donkey and a female horse. The mule possesses the strength, intelligence, patience, perseverance, endurance, surefootedness and even temper of the donkey.
Did you know that George Washington played a significant role in the development of the mule population in America? He recognized the value of the sturdy animal in agriculture and became the first American breeder.
It didn’t take long before mules found a place in the grim business of war. A mule’s hide and hooves are tougher than a horse’s, and endure heat better. They carry heavier loads for longer distances, and eat a third less than horses doing the same work. 
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DISTRIBUTION AND USAGE 
In the second half of the 20th century, widespread usage of mules declined in industrialized countries. The use of mules for farming and transportation of agricultural products largely gave way to modern tractors and trucks.
However, in the United States, a dedicated number of mule breeders continued the tradition as a hobby and continued breeding the great lines of American Mammoth Jacks started in the United States by George Washington with the gift from the King of Spain of two Zamorano-Leonés donkeys.
Hobby breeders began to utilize better mares for mule production until today’s modern saddle mule emerged. Exhibition shows where mules pulled heavy loads have now been joined with mules competing in Western and English pleasure riding, as well as dressage and show jumping competition.
There is now a cable TV show dedicated to the training of donkeys and mules. Mules, once snubbed at traditional horse shows, have been accepted for competition at the most exclusive horse shows in the world in all disciplines.
Mules are still used extensively to transport cargo in rugged roadless regions, such as the large wilderness areas of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains or the Pasayten Wilderness of northern Washington state.
Commercial pack mules are used recreationally, such as to supply mountaineering base camps, and also to supply trail building and maintenance crews, and backcountry footbridge building crews.
As of July 2014, there are at least sixteen commercial mule pack stations in business in the Sierra Nevada. The Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club has a Mule Pack Section that organizes hiking trips with supplies carried by mules.
Amish farmers, who reject tractors and most other modern technology for religious reasons, commonly use teams of six or eight mules to pull plows, disk harrows, and other farm equipment, though they use horses for pulling buggies on the road.
During the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the United States used large numbers of mules to carry weapons and supplies over Afghanistan’s rugged terrain to the mujahideen. Use of mules by U.S. forces has continued during the War in Afghanistan (2001-present), and the United States Marine Corps has conducted an 11-day Animal Packers Course since the 1960s at its Mountain Warfare Training Center located in the Sierra Nevada near Bridgeport, California.
Three darling mules mug for the camera. From Grit.com. Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com/Claudia Nardemann.
• Mammoth Jack Mule. Pinterest. See more https://www.pinterest.com/pin/226657793723454333/.
• Pack Mules of the Himalayas. See http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Nepal/West/Gandaki/Annapurna_Circuit/photo1097329.htm.
• Mules from a Bishop Mules Day celebration; Bishop, California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Pinterest. See https://www.pinterest.com/pin/496873771365311735/.
• Mules at War. Fascinating read. See http://www.defensemedianetwork.com/stories/the-virtues-of-stubbornness-mules-at-war/.
• First ever mule makes it to US Dressage Finals. Horse Nation. See https://www.horsenation.com/2014/11/01/first-mule-ever-makes-it-to-the-us-dressage-finals//