1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mule

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MULE (Lat. mulus), term not unfrequently applied to the produce of any two creatures of different species, and synonymous with hybrid, but in its ordinary acceptation employed to designate the offspring or “cross” between the equine and asinine species. There are two kinds of mule—the Mule proper (Equus asinus, var. γ; Mulus; Fr. Mulet or Grand mulet; Ger. Grosser Maulesel), which is the hybrid produce of a male ass with a mare, and the Hinny (Equus asinus, var. δ; Hinnus; Fr. Bardot or Petit mulet; Ger. Kleiner Maulesel), the offspring of the stallion and the female ass. The mule is the more valuable of the two, and to its production the attention of the breeders is entirely directed.

In its short thick head, long ears, thin limbs, small narrow hoofs, short mane, absence of chestnuts (horny growths) inside the hocks, and tail destitute of hair at the root the mule is asinine; while in height and body, shape of neck and croup, uniformity of coat, and in teeth it is equine. It has the voice neither of the ass nor of the horse, but emits a feeble hoarse noise. The most common colour of the mule is a brown or bay-brown—bay, or bright bay, or piebald being rare; a chestnut tint is sometimes noticed. It possesses the sobriety, patience, endurance and sure-footedness of the ass, and the vigour, strength and courage of the horse. As a beast of burden it is preferable to the horse, being less impatient under the pressure of heavy weights, while the skin being harder and less sensitive renders it more capable of resisting sun and rain.

The mule has been in use since early times; the inhabitants of Mysia and Paphlagonia are said to have been its first breeders. With the Greeks and the Romans, the latter especially, the mule was valued, being employed to draw carriages and carry loads. In modern times it has been largely used for military transport.

The principal mule countries in Europe are the south of France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, where they are used for pack and draught. The French mules are most numerous on the borders of the Pyrenees, in Gascony, and in Poitou. In Spain mules are used in the Catalan provinces, in the mountainous districts of Andalusia, and in the province of Alicante. Good draught-mules are bred in La Mancha and in the districts on the slopes of the Pyrenees, where they are employed to carry loads. But in Spain, Italy, and some other countries they are also extensively used in carriages; in Spain particularly, where large, fine mules are bred for this purpose, a pair of these animals will often cost more than a pair of horses. The mules of Asia Minor, Syria, Cyprus, Egypt and Algeria, as well as those of the district between the Tigris and the Persian frontier and in North China, are good. In the Punjab provinces of British India may excellent mules are bred, breeding being promoted by the government. Good mules are bred in North and South America, the principal districts for breeding them in the United States being Texas, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Arkansas and Kentucky. The Kentucky mules are well shaped and showy, being derived from nearly thoroughbred mares known as Kentucky trotters, while those reared in Missouri are hardy. The Mexican mule, bred by a male ass out of a mustang mare, is also a hardy, strong and useful animal.

France is perhaps the most important mule-raising country in Europe, four centres being more particularly devoted to this kind of industry: Poitou, the mountainous districts of central France, the Pyrenees and Dauphiné. The mules of these different parts differ chiefly in height; those of Poitou are large, powerful, and long in the body, and are mainly exported to the departments of Languedoc and Provence, as well as to Spain, Italy and America; those of Dauphiné are of medium height, with a short, thick body; while those of the centre and the Pyrenees are lighter and smaller, but more active.

Mule-breeding in Poitou is supposed to date from the time of Philip V. of Spain, when the particular breeds of horses and asses were imported into that region and Gascony. But there is evidence to show that as early as the 10th century the mules of Poitou were of excellent quality.