ALL ABOUT DONKEYS
Donkeys come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. The Miniature Mediterranean (under 36 inches) to the elegant Mammoth Jackstock (14 hands and up ).
ALL ABOUT MULES
Miniature donkeys are native to the Mediterranean Islands of Sicily and Sardinia, and have been in the U.S. since the 1920s. The rare French Poitou donkey, characterized by its huge head and ears, and very thick, shaggy, curled coat, can stand 14 to 15 hand high. (There are estimated to be about 400 purebred Poitous left in the world today.)
The types of donkeys are labeled by their sizes; 36" and under is the Miniature Mediterranean Donkey, 36.01-48" is the Standard Donkey, 48.01" to 54" (jennets) or 56"; (jacks), Large Standard Donkey, and 54/56" and over are the Mammoth Stock.
With proper lifelong care, donkey's can live 25-40 years. Any age male is called a Jack, and when castrated they are called a gelding. A female donkey is called a jennet or jenny.
They differ somewhat from horses in conformation. The most noticeable difference is of course the ears. Donkeys' ears are MUCH longer in proportion to their size than a horse's. The necks are straighter, and most donkeys lack true withers, giving them a straighter back. The croup and rump are also a different shape in the donkey, lacking the double-curve muscled haunch. Severely swayed backs are a conformation fault, unless in old animals or brood Jennies who have produced many foals.
The mane and tail in the donkey are coarse. The mane is stiff and upright, rarely lying over and the tail is more like a cow's, covered with short body hair for most of the length, and ending in a tasseled switch. Donkeys do not have a forelock. Because the mane is stiff and sometimes flyaway, many donkeys, especially show stock, wear their manes clipped short or shaved close to the neck.
Donkey hooves are usually smaller and rounder than a horse, with a more upright pastern, although individual hoof shapes may vary greatly. The legs should have good bone. Larger Asses such as the Poitou or Andalusian types may appear opposite, with huge, heavy shaggy legs and large round feet. Regular trims to keep the hoof in shape are usually all that is needed.
Donkeys communicate with their human owners and with other donkeys by "braying", also more commonly known as a hee-haw. The donkey's voice is a raspy, brassy bray. Every donkey has their own unique style of braying with some sounding quite comical. They range from barely being audible to a loud thunderous bray.
Although many donkeys are the familiar gray-dun color, there are many other coat shades. Most donkeys, regardless of coat color, will have dorsal stripes and shoulder crosses. Legend says that the shadow of the Cross of Jesus fell across the donkey’s back while at the Crucifixion which explains the characteristic "cross" you see on the back and shoulders of the donkey. Light points" - white or tan muzzle and eye rings, and white belly and inner legs are a common trait in donkey's. A Donkey with a black nose and no white eye rings is called a Donkey with no light points (NLP). Leg barring ("garters" or "zebra stripes") may be present as well. Small dark spots right at the throatlatch, called "collar buttons" are a good identifying marking and occur occasionally. Colors in the donkey range from the gray shades to brown, black, variants of sorrel, the blue-eyed Ivory, frosted/spotted white, and a spotted pattern.
Donkeys are known for their loving personalities. They are by nature people loving, affectionate, and intelligent. They demand attention. They form close attachments to their owners and to other donkeys. Donkeys are herd animals and one lone donkey is a very lonely donkey. Because of their laid-back, easy going personalities, they make wonderful pets for children, the handicapped and the elderly.
Donkeys can be used just like horses under saddle and in harness. Donkeys are not stubborn; they are more laid back and self-preserving in nature. They are very friendly, and their nature makes them excellent for children. Donkeys can perform all the gaits horses or mules do.
Donkeys are very healthy, hardy animals. They require the same yearly vaccinations and dewormings as an equine.
The Mule is a cross between a donkey stallion (called a jack) and a horse mare. Hinnies are just the opposite - a stallion horse crossed to a donkey jennet. For all purposes, hinnies and mules are classified and shown together under the general term Mule. A mule or hinny may be a male (horse mule or horse hinny) or a female (mare mule or mare hinny). Sometimes horse mules (the males) are called Johns, and the mares are called Mollies. Both male and female mules have all the correct "parts" but they are sterile and cannot reproduce. A VERY few (about 1 in 1 million) mare mules have had foals, but these are VERY, very rare. No male mule has ever sired a foal.
Mule's ears are usually somewhat smaller than a donkey, but longer than a horse. The mule's conformation will be a combination of traits from both parents. The head, hip and legs usually take after the jack. Mules do not have pronounced arches to the neck, even from breeds such as Arabians or Warmbloods. Mules look very similar to horses, but their muscle composition is different. Mules have smoother muscles than horses. The Mule is very athletic and smart, getting it's athleticism from the horse, and its smarts from the donkey. The rarer Hinnies are often said to be more horselike than the mule, but more often it is impossible to tell them apart. Hinnies may tend to be slightly smaller, simply because of the fact that most donkeys are smaller than horses.
The mule will have "combination hair", usually a thin forelock, coarse mane hair, and a tail more like the horse parent.
Mules try their best to imitate the donkey's bray, but most have a unique sound that is a combination of the horse's whinny and the grunting of the wind-down of a bray. Most will start out - Whinee.....and end in a bray. Every mule or hinny will have a unique bray.
Mules usually have brown or tan-colored points, where in the donkey the Light Points are a shade of off-white. Some mules do not exhibit any light points at all. Mules can be any of the colors that either horses or donkeys come in, along with some unique variations of their own. The only colors mules do NOT come in are a true horse pinto.
Mules come in every size and shape imaginable. Miniature mules (even to under 36") can be seen all the way up to 17 hand Percheron draft (by Mammoth Jacks) Mules. The Poitou donkey was used exclusively for breeding huge draft mules. The build of the mule is a combination of both parents. The head resembles both, the eyes being more almond-shaped (inherited from the D-shaped eye socket of the donkey). Male mules may have more prominent brow ridges like those of most donkey jacks. The overall body shape will be dependent on the conformation of both parents. Due to hybrid vigor - (improved traits resulting from crossbreeding) giving increased growth, disease resistance, or fertility seen in hybrid species. For example, mules are stronger and longer-lived than the parent animals. Mules can be used in exactly the same sports as horses - under saddle, in harness, for cutting, roping or dressage. In actuality, they have more stamina and can carry more weight than a horse of equal size. This is due to the hybrid vigor.