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Diseases Mules Are Liable To--what He Can Draw Etc Etc

The committee also say that the mule is a more steady animal in his
draft than the horse. I think this the greatest mistake the committee
has made. You have only to observe the manner in which a dray or
heavily-loaded wagon will toss a mule about, and the way he will toss
himself around on the road, to be satisfied that the committee have
formed an erroneous opinion on that point. In starting with a load, the
mule, in many cases, works with his feet as if they were set on a pivot,
and hence does not take so firm a hold of the ground as the horse does.
I have never yet seen a mule in a dray or cart that could keep it from
jolting him round. In the first place, he has not the power to steady a
dray; and, in the second place, they never can be taught to do it. In
fine, they have not the formation to handle a dray or cart. What, then,
becomes of the idea that they are as steady in drays or teams as the

The committee also say that mules are not subject to such ailments as
horses--spavin, glanders, ringbone, and bots. If I had the committee
here, I would show its members that every other mule in the
quartermasters' department, over fifteen and a half hands high, is
either spavined, ringboned, or ill some way injured by the above-named
diseases. The mule may not be so liable to spavin as the horse, but he
has ringbone just the same. I cannot, for the life of me, see how the
committee could have fallen into this error. There is this, however, to
be taken into consideration: the mule is not of so sensitive a nature as
the horse, and will bear pain without showing it in lameness. The close
observer, however, can easily detect it. One reason why they do not show
spavin and ringbone so much at the horse, is because our blacksmiths do
not cut their heels as low as they do a horse's, and consequently that
part of the foot is not made to work so hard. If you believe a mule has
a ringbone, and yet is not lame, just cut his heel down low, and give
him a few good pulls in a muddy place, and he will soon develop to you
both lameness and ringbone. Cut his toes down and leave his heels high,
and he will not be apt to go lame with it.

The committee also say that a Mr. Elliott, of the Patuxent Furnaces,
says they hardly ever had a mule die of disease. This is a strange
statement; for the poorest teams I ever saw, and the very worst bred
stock, were on the Patuxent River, through the southern part of
Maryland, and at the markets on Washington City. It is pitiable to see,
as you can on market days, the shabby teams driven by the farmers of
eastern and southern Maryland. A more broken-hearted, poverty-stricken,
and dejected-looking set of teams can be seen nowhere else. The people
of Maryland have raised good horses; it is high time they waked up to
the necessity, and even profit, of raising a better kind of mule.

In regard to the draft power of mules, in comparison with horses, there
are various opinions; and yet it is one which ought to be easily
settled. I have tested mules to the very utmost of their strength, and
it was very rare to find a pair that could draw thirty hundred weight a
single year, without being used up completely. Now, it is well known
that in the northern and western States you can find any number of pairs
of horses that will draw thirty-five and forty hundred weight anywhere.
And they will keep doing it, day after day, and retain their condition.

There was one great difficulty the Agricultural Committee of South
Carolina had to contend with, and it was this. At the time it had the
subject of the mule under consideration, he was not used generally
throughout the United States. I can easily understand, therefore, that
the committee obtained its knowledge from the very few persons who had
them, and made the best report it could under the circumstances. Indeed,
I firmly believe the report was written with the intention of giving
correct information, but it failed entirely. In recommending any thing
of this kind, great care should be taken not to lead the inexperienced
astray, and to give only such facts as are obtained from thorough
knowledge; and no man should be accepted as authority in the care and
treatment of animals, unless he has had long experience with them, and
has made them a subject of study.

A few words more on breaking the mule. Don't fight or abuse him. After
you have harnessed him, and he proves to be refractory, keep your own
temper, slack your reins, push him round, backward and forward, not
roughly; and if he will not go, and do what you want, tie him to a post
and let him stand there a day or so without food or water. Take care,
also, that he does not lie down, and be careful to have a person to
guard him, so that he does not foul in the harness. If he will not go,
after a day or two of this sort of treatment, give him one or two more
of it, and my word for it, he will come to his senses and do any thing
you want from that time forward. Some persons assert that the mule is a
very cunning animal; others assert that he is dull and stupid, and
cannot be made to understand what you want. He is, I admit, what may be
called a tricky animal; but, for experiment sake, just play one or two
tricks with him, and he will show you by his action that he understands
them well. Indeed, he knows a great deal more than he generally gets
credit for, and few animals are more capable of appreciating proper
treatment. Like many other species of animal, there are scarcely two to
be found of precisely the same temper and disposition, if we except the
single vice of kicking, which they will all do, especially when well fed
and rested. And we can excuse even this vice in consideration of the
fact, that the mule is not a natural animal, but only an invention of
man. Some persons are inclined to think that, when a mule is a kicker,
he has not been properly broken. I doubt if you can break a mule so that
he will not kick a stranger at sight, especially if he be under six
years old. The only way to keep a mule from kicking you is to handle it
a great deal when young, and accustom it to the ways and actions of men.
You must through kindness convince it that you are not going to harm or
abuse it; and you can do that best by taking hold of it in a gentle

manner every time it appears to be frightened. Such treatment I have
always found more effective than all the beating and abusing you can

There is another fault the mule has to contend against. It is the common
belief among teamsters and others that he has less confidence in man
than the horse has, and to improve this they almost invariably apply the
whip. The reason for this want of confidence is readily found in the
fact that mule colts are never handled with that degree of kindness and
care that horse colts are. They are naturally more stubborn than the
horse, and most of those persons who undertake to halter or harness them
for the first time are even more stubborn in their disposition than the
mule. They commence to break the animal by beating him in the most
unmerciful manner, and that at once so excites the mule's stubbornness,
that many of them, in this condition, would not move an inch if you were
to cut them to pieces. And let me say here that nothing should be so
much avoided in breaking this animal as the whip. The young, unbroken
mule cannot be made to understand what you are whipping him for.

It is a habit with mule drivers in the army, many of whom are men
without feeling for a dumb animal, to whip mules just to hear their
whips crack, and to let others hear with what dexterity they can do it.
It has a very bad effect on the animals, and some means should be
applied to stop it. Army teamsters and stable-men seem to regard it as a
virtue to be cruel to animals. They soon cultivate vicious habits, and a
bad temper seems to grow up with their occupation. It naturally follows,
then, that in the treatment of their animals they do just what they
ought not to do. The Government has been a very severe sufferer by this;
and I contend that during a war it is just as necessary to have
experienced and well trained teamsters as it is to have hardened and
well trained soldiers.

The mule is peculiar in his dislikes. Many of them, when first
harnessed, so dislike a blind bridle that they will not work in it. When
you find this, let him stand for say a day in the blinders, and then
take them off, and in forty-nine cases out of fifty he will go at once.

It has been said that the mule never scares or runs away. This is not
true. He is not so apt to get frightened and run away as the horse is.
But any one who has had long experience with them in the army knows that
they will both get frightened and run away. They do not, however, lose
all their senses when they get frightened and run away, as the horse
does. Bring a mule back after he has run away, and in most cases he will
not want to do it again. A horse that has once run away, however, is
never safe afterward. Indeed, in all the tens of thousands of mules that
I have handled, I never yet found an habitual runaway. Their sluggish
nature does not incline them to such tricks. If a team attempts to run
away, one or two of them will fall down before they have gone far, and
this will stop the remainder. Attempt to put one up to the same speed
you would a horse, over a rough road, and you will have performed
wonders if he does not fall and break your bones.

The mule, especially if large, cannot stand hard roads and pavements.
His limbs are too small for his body, and they generally give out. You
will notice that all good judges of road and trotting horses like to see
a good strong bone in the leg. This is actually necessary. The mule, you
will notice, is very deficient in leg, and generally have poor muscle.
And many of them are what is called cat-hammed.

Working Condition of Mules.--Most persons, when they see a good, fat,
slick mule, are apt to exclaim: What a fine mule there is! He takes it
for granted that because the animal is fat, tall, and heavy, he must be
a good work animal. This, however, is no criterion to judge by. A mule,
to be in good condition for work, should never be any fatter than what
is known as good working condition. One of fourteen and a half hands
high, to be in good working condition, should not weigh over nine
hundred and fifty pounds. One of fifteen hands high should not weigh
over one thousand pounds. If he does, his legs will in a very short time
give out, and he will have to go to the hospital. In working a mule with
too much flesh, it will produce curbs, spavin, ringbone, or crooked
hocks. The muscles and tendons of their small legs are not capable of
carrying a heavy weight of body for any length of time. He may not, as I
have said before, show his blemishes in lameness, but it is only because
he lacks that fine feeling common to the horse. I have, singular as it
may seem, known mules that have been spavined, curbed, and ringboned,
and yet have been worked for years without exhibiting lameness.

Avoid spotted, or dapple mules; they are the very poorest animal you can
get. They cannot stand hard work, and once they get diseased and begin
to lose strength, there is no saving them. The Mexicans call them
pintos, or painted mules. We call them calico Arabians or Chickasaws.
They have generally bad eyes, which get very sore during the heat and
dust of summer, when many of them go blind. Many of the snow-white mules
are of the same description, and about as useless. Mules with the white
muzzle, or, as some term it, white-nore white, and with white rings
round the eyes, are also of but little account as work mules. They can
stand no hardship of any kind. Government, at least, should never
purchase them. In purchasing mules, you must look well to the age, form,
height, eyes, size of bone and muscle, and disposition; for these are of
more importance than his color. Get these right and you will have a good

If any gentleman wants to purchase a mule for the saddle, let him get
one bred closer after the mare than the jack. They are more docile,
handle easier, and are more tractable, and will do what you want with
less trouble than the other. If possible, also, get mare mules; they are
much more safe and trusty under the saddle, and less liable to get
stubborn. They are also better than a horse mule for team purposes. In
short, if I were purchasing mules for myself, I would give at least
fifteen dollars more for mare mules than I would for horse. They are
superior to the horse mule in every way. One reason is, that they
possess all their natural faculties, while you deprive the horse of his
by altering.

The most disagreeable and unmanageable, and I was going to say useless,
animal in the world, is a stud mule. They are no benefit to anybody, and
yet they are more troublesome than any other animal. They rarely ever
get fat, and are always fretting; and it is next to impossible to keep
them from breaking loose and getting at mares. Besides, they are
exceedingly dangerous to have amongst horses. They will frequently fly
at the horse, like a tiger, and bite, tear, and kick him to pieces. I
have known them to shut their eyes, become furious, and dash over both
man and beast to get at a mare. It is curious, also, that a white mare
seems to have the greatest attractions for them. I have known a stud
mule to take a fancy to a white mare, and it seemed impossible to keep
him away from her. Mules of all kinds, however, seem to have a peculiar
fancy for white mares and horses, and when this attachment is once
formed, it is almost impossible to separate them. If you want to drive a
herd of five hundred mules any distance, turn a white or gray mare in
among them for two or three days, and they will become so attached to
her that you may turn them out, and they will follow her anywhere. Just
let a man lead the mare, and with two men mounted you can manage the
whole herd almost as well as if they were in a team. Another way to lead
mules is, to put a bell on the mare's neck. The mules will listen for
that bell like a lot of school children, and will follow its tinkling,
with the same instinct.

Another curious thing about the mule is this: You may hitch him up
to-day for the first time, and he may become sullen and refuse to go a
step for you. This may be very provoking, and perhaps excite your
temper; but do not let it, for ten chances to one, if you take him out
of the harness to-day and put him in again to-morrow, that he will go
right off, and do any thing you want him. It is best always to get a
young mule well used to the harness before you try to work him in a
team. When you get him so that he is not afraid of the harness, you may
consider your mule two-thirds broke.

I have seen it asserted that a team of mules was more easily handled
than a team of horses. It is impossible that this can be so, for the
reason that you never can make a mule as bridle-wise as a horse. To
further prove that this cannot be so, let any reinsman put as many mules
together as there are horses in the band wagon of a show, or circus,
and see what he can do with them. There is not a driver living who can
rein them with the same safety that he can a horse, and for the very
reason, that whenever the mule finds that he has the advantage of you,
he will keep it in spite of all you can do.

Mule Raising.--I never could understand why it was that almost every
person, that raises stock, recommends big, ugly gollips of mares, for
mule-breeding. The principle is certainly a wrong one, as a little study
of nature must show. To produce a good, well-proportioned mule, you must
have a good, compact, and serviceable mare. It is just as necessary as
in the crossing of any other animal. It certainly is more profitable to
raise good animals than poor ones; and you cannot raise good mules from
bad mares, no matter what the jack is. You invariably see the bad mare
in the flabby, long-legged mule.

It has been held by some of our officers, that the mule was a better
animal for Government service, because he required less care and feed
than the horse, and would go longer without water. This, again, is a
grave mistake. The mule, if properly taken care of, requires nearly as
much forage as the horse, and should be groomed and cared for just the
same. I refer now to team animals. Such statements do a great deal of
injury, inasmuch as they encourage the men who have charge of animals to
neglect and abuse them. The teamster who hears his superior talk in this
way will soon take advantage of it. Animals of all kinds, in a wild and
natural state, have a way of keeping themselves clean. If left wild, the
mule would do it. But when man deprives them of the privileges by tying
them up and domesticating them, he must assist them in the most natural
way to keep themselves clean. And this assistance the animal appreciates
to its fullest extent.

How to Handle a Mule Colt.--Owners and raisers of mules should pay
more attention to their habits when young. And I would give them this
advice: When the colt is six months old, put a halter on him and let the
strap hang loose. Let your strap be about four feet long, so that it
will drag on the ground. The animal will soon accustom himself to this;
and when he has, take up the end and lead him to the place where you
have been accustomed to feed him. This will make him familiar with you,
and increase his confidence. Handle his ears at times, but don't squeeze
them, for the ear is the most sensitive part of this animal. As soon as
he lets you handle his ears familiarly, put a loose bridle on him. Put
it on and take it off frequently. In this way you will secure the colt's
confidence, and he will retain it until you need him for work.

Speaking of the sensitiveness of the mule's ear, a scratch, or the
slightest injury to it, will excite their stubbornness and make them
afraid of you. I have known a mule's ear to be scratched by rough
handling, and for months afterward it was with the greatest difficulty
you could bridle him. Nothing is more important than that you should
bridle a young mule properly. I have found from experience that the best
way is this: stand on the near side, of course; take the top of the
bridle in your right hand, and the bit in your left; pass your arm
gently over his eye until that part of the arm bends his ear down, then
slip the bit into his mouth, and at the same time let your hand be
working slowly with the bearings still on his head and neck, until you
have arranged the head-stall.

It would be a saving of thousands of dollars to the Government, if, in
purchasing mules, it could get them all halter and bridle-broken.
Stablemen, in the employ of the Government, will not take the trouble to
halter and bridle-break them properly; and I have seen hundreds of
mules, in the City of Washington, totally ruined by tying them up behind
wagons while young, and literally dragging them through the streets.
These mules had never, perhaps, had a halter on before. I have seen
them, while tied in this manner, jump back, throw themselves down, and
be dragged on the ground until they were nearly dead. And what is worse,
the teamster invariably seeks to remedy this by beating them. In most
cases, the teamster would see them dragged to death before he would give
them a helping hand. If he knew how to apply a proper remedy, very
likely he would not give himself the trouble to apply it. I have never
been able to find out how this pernicious habit of tying mules behind
wagons originated; but the sooner an order is issued putting a stop to
it, the better, for it is nothing less than a costly torture. The mule,
more than any other animal, wants to see where he is going. He cannot do
this at the tail of an army wagon, though it is an excellent plan for
him to get his head bruised or his brains knocked out.

Some persons charge it as an habitual vice with the mule to pull back. I
have seen horses contract that vice, and continue it until they killed
themselves. But, in all my experience with the mule, I never saw one in
which it was a settled vice. During the time I had charge of the
receiving and issuing of horses to the army, I had a great many horses
injured seriously by this vice of pulling back. Some of these horses
became so badly injured in the spine that I had to send them to the
hospital, then under the charge of Dr. L.H. Braley. Some were so badly
injured that they died in fits; others were cured. Even when the mule
gets his neck sore, he will endure it like the ox, and instead of
pulling back, as the horse will, he will come right up for the purpose
of easing it. They do not, as some suppose, do this because of their
sore, but because they are not sensitive like the horse.

Packing Mules.--In looking over a copy of Mason's Farrier, or Stud
Book, by Mr. Skinner, I find it stated that a mule is capable of packing
six or eight hundred pounds. Mr. Skinner has evidently never packed
mules, or he would not have made so erroneous a statement. I have been
in all our Northern and Western Territories, in Old and New Mexico,
where nearly all the business is done by pack animals, mules, and asses;
and I have also been among the tribes of Indians bordering on the
Mexican States, where they have to a great extent adopted the Spanish
method of packing, and yet I never saw an instance when a mule could be
packed six or eight hundred pounds. Indeed, the people in these
countries would ridicule such an assertion. And here I purpose to give
the result of my own experience in packing, together with that of
several others who have long followed the business.

I also purpose to say something on what I consider the best mode of
packing, the weight suitable for each animal, and the relative gain or
loss that might result from this method of transportation, as compared
with transportation by wagon. In the first place, packing ought never to
be resorted to, because it cannot be done with profit, where the roads
are good and wagons and animals are to be had. In mountains, over
deserts and plains of sand, where forage is scant, and water only to be
had at long intervals, then the pack is a necessity, and can be used
with profit. Let it be understood, also, that in packing, the Spanish
pack-mule, as as well as saddle, is the most suitable. Second: The
Spanish method of packing is, above all others, the most ancient, the
best and most economical. With it the animal can carry a heavier burden
with less injury to himself. Third: The weight to be packed, under ever
so favorable circumstances, should never be over four hundred and fifty
pounds. Fourth: The American pack-saddle is a worthless thing, and
should never be used when any considerable amount of weight is required
to be packed.

If I had previously entertained any doubt in regard to this American
pack-saddle, it was removed by what came under my observation three
years ago. While employed in the quartermasters' depot, at Washington,
D.C., as superintendent of the General Hospital Stables, we at one time
received three hundred mules, on which the experiment of packing with
this saddle had been tried in the Army of the Potomac. It was said this
was one of General Butterfield's experiments. These animals presented no
evidence of being packed more than once; but such was the terrible
condition of their backs that the whole number required to be placed at
once under medical treatment. Officers of the army who knew Dr. Braley,
know how invariably successful he has been in the treatment of
Government animals, and how carefully he treats them. Yet, in spite of
all his skill, and with the best of shelter, fifteen of these animals
died from mortification of their wounds and injuries of the spine. The
remainder were a very long time in recovering, and when they did, their
backs, in many cases, were scarred in such a manner as to render them
unfit ever after for being used for a similar purpose. The use of the
American pack-saddle, and lack of knowledge on the part of those in
charge as to what mules were suitable for packing, did this. The
experienced packer would have seen at a glance that a large portion of
these mules were utterly unfit for the business. The experiment was a
wretched failure, but cost the Government some thousands of dollars.

I ought to mention, however, that the class of mules on which this
experiment was tried were loose, leggy animals, such as I have
heretofore described as being almost unfit for any branch of Government
service. But, by all means, let the Government abandon the American
pack-saddle until some further improvements are made in it.

Now, as to the weight a mule can pack. I have seen the Delaware Indians,
with all their effects packed on mules, going out on a buffalo hunt. I
have seen the Potawatamies, the Kickapoos, the Pawnees, the Cheyennes,
Pi-Ute, Sioux, Arapahoes, and indeed almost every tribe that use mules,
pack them to the very extent of their strength, and never yet saw the
mule that could pack what Mr. Skinner asserts. More than that, I assert
here that you cannot find a mule that will pack even four hundred
pounds, and keep his condition sixty days. Eight hundred pounds, Mr.
Skinner, is a trying weight for a horse to drag any distance. What,
then, must we think of it on the back of a mule? The officers of our
quartermasters' department, who have been out on the plains, understand
this matter perfectly. Any of these gentlemen will tell you that there
is not a pack train of fifty mules in existence, that can pack on an
average for forty days, three hundred pounds to the animal.

I will now give you the experience of some of the best mule packers in
the country, in order to show that what has been written in regard to
the mule's strength is calculated to mislead the reader. In 1856,
William Anderson, a man whom I know well, packed from the City of Del
Norte to Chihuahua and Durango, in Mexico, a distance of five hundred
miles or thereabout. Anderson and a man of the name of Frank Roberts had
charge of the pack train. They had seventy-five mules, and used to pack
boxes of dry goods, bales, and even barrels. They had two Mexican
drivers, and travelled about fifteen miles a day, at most, though they
took the very best of care of their animals. Now, the very most it was
possible for any mule in this train to get along with was two hundred
and seventy-five pounds. More than this, they did not have over
twenty-five mules out of the whole number that could pack two hundred
and fifty pounds, the average weight to the whole train being a little
less than two hundred pounds. To make this fifteen miles a day, they had
to make two drives, letting the animals stop to feed whenever they had
made seven or eight miles.

In 1858, this same Anderson packed for the expedition sent after the
Snake Indians. His train consisted of some two hundred and fifty or
three hundred mules. They packed from Cordelaine Mission to Walla Walla,
in Oregon. The animals were of a very superior kind, selected for the
purpose of packing out of a very large lot. Some of the very best of
these mules were packed with three hundred pounds, but at the end of two
weeks gave out completely.

In 1859, this same Anderson packed for a gentleman of the name of David
Reese, living at the Dalles, in Portland, Oregon. His train consisted of
fifty mules, in good average condition, many of them weighing nine
hundred and fifty pounds, and from thirteen to fourteen hands high. His
average packing was two hundred and fifty pounds. The distance was three
hundred miles, and it occupied forty days in going and returning. Such
was the severity of the labor that nearly two-thirds of the animals
became poor, and their backs so sore as to be unfit for work. This trip
was made from the Dalles, in Oregon, to Salmon Falls, on the Columbia
River. Anderson asserts it, as the result of his experience, that, in
packing fifty mules a distance of three hundred miles with two hundred
and fifty pounds, the animals will be so reduced at the end of the
journey as to require at least four weeks to bring them into condition
again. This also conforms with my own experience.

In 1857, there was started from Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory, to go
to Fort Bridger with salt, a train of forty mules. It was in the winter;
each mule was packed with one hundred and eighty pounds, as near as we
could possibly estimate, and the train was given in charge of a man of
the name of Donovan. The weather and roads were bad, and the pack proved
entirely too heavy. Donovan did all he could to get his train through,
but was forced to leave more than two-thirds of it on the way. At that
season of the year, when grass is poor and the weather bad, one hundred
and forty or one hundred and fifty pounds is enough for any mule to

There were also, in 1857, regular pack trains run from Red Bluffs, on
the Sacramento River, in California, to Yreka and Curran River. Out of
all the mules used in these trains, none were packed with over two
hundred pounds. To sum up, packing never should be resorted to when
there is any other means of transportation open. It is, beyond doubt,
the most expensive means of transportation, even when the most
experienced packers are employed. If, however, it were necessary for the
Government to establish a system of packing, it would be a great saving
to import Mexicans, accustomed to the work, to perform the labor, and
Americans to take charge of the trains. Packing is a very laborious
business, and very few Americans either care about doing it, or have the
patience necessary to it.

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