by HORSE FUND STAFF
National Mule Day — October 26th — recognizes an intelligent pack animal many mistaken to be stubborn.
A mule is a hybrid cross between a male donkey (jack) and a female horse. As a hybrid, the animal inherits characteristics from both parents. The mule possesses the strength, intelligence, patience, perseverance, endurance, sure-footedness, and even temper of the donkey. From the horse, the mule inherits beauty, athletic ability, courage, vigor, and speed. In addition, mules appear to require less food than a horse of similar size.
Source: National Day Calendar
Did you know that George Washington (yes, that George Washington) was the first American breeder of the Mule?
Smithsonian Magazine tells us:
The best donkeys in the world came from Spain, but because of their equine superiority, the Spanish monarchy made them illegal to export without royal exemption, a source of great frustration to Washington. Mules could do an equivalent amount of work as horses with less food and water, and Washington was convinced they were the future of American farming.
According to the American Mule Museum:
- Early explorers brought donkeys to America, but they were quite small.
- 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.
- Washington wished to breed the very best mules, but he faced a significant obstacle — the Spanish government at that time prohibited the acquisition or exportation of the famous Andalusian donkey. So Washington wrote to King Charles of Spain requesting permission to purchase good quality breeding stock.
- In October of 1785, a ship docked in Boston harbor carrying a gift from King Charles for George Washington — two fine jennies and a 4-year old Spanish jack named, appropriately, “Royal Gift’. That royal gift from the Spanish king is credited with the development of the American mule. Today it’s considered the beginning of a dynasty that “reshaped the very landscape of the country.”