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Something More About Breeding Mules

Before I close this work, I desire to say something more about breeding
mules. It has long been a popular error that to get a good mule colt you
must breed from large mares. The average sized, compact mare, is by all
odds the superior animal to breed mules from. Experience has satisfied
me that very large mules are about as useless for army service as very
large men are for troopers. You can get no great amount of service out
of either. One is good at destroying rations; the other at lowering
haystacks and corn-bins. Of all the number we had in the army, I never
saw six of these large, overgrown mules that were of much service.
Indeed, I have yet to see the value in any animal that runs or rushes to
an overgrowth. The same is true with man, beast, or vegetable. I will
get the average size of either of them, and you will acknowledge the

The only advantage these large mares may give to the mule is in the size
of the feet and bone that they may impart. The heavier you can get the
bone and feet, the better. And yet you can rarely get even this, and for
the reason that I have before given, that the mare, in nineteen cases
out of twenty, breeds close after the jack, more especially in the feet
and legs. It makes little difference how you cross mares and jacks, the
result is almost certain to be a horse's body, a jack's legs and feet, a
jack's ears, and, in most cases, a jack's marks.

Nature has directed this crossing for the best, since the closer the
mare breeds after the jack the better the mule. The highest marked
mules, and the deepest of the different colors, I have invariably found
to be the best. What is it, let us inquire, that makes the Mexican mule
hardy, trim, robust, well-marked after the jack, and so serviceable? It
is nothing more nor less than breeding from sound, serviceable, compact,
and spirited Mexican or mustang mares. You must, in fact, use the same
judgment in crossing these animals as you would if you wanted to produce
a good race or trotting horse.

We are told, in Mason and Skinner's Stud Book, that in breeding mules
the mares should be large barrelled small limbed, with a moderate-sized
head and a good forehead. This, it seems to me, will strike our officers
as a very novel recommendation. The mule's limbs and feet are the
identical parts you want as large as possible, as everyone that has had
much to do with the animal knows. You rarely find a mule that has legs
as large as a horse. But the mule, from having a horse's body, will
fatten and fill up, and become just as heavy as the body of an
average-sized horse. Having, then, to carry this extra amount of fat and
flesh on the slender legs and feet of a jackass, you can easily see what
the result must be. No; you will be perfectly safe in getting your mule
as large-legged as you can. And by all means let the mare you breed from
have a good, sound, healthy block of a foot. Then the colt will stand
some chance of inheriting a portion of it. It is natural that the larger
you get his feet the steadier he will travel. Some persons will tell you
that these small feet are natural, and are best adapted to the animal.
But they forget that the mule is not a natural animal, only an invention
of man. Let your mare and jack be each of the average size, the jack
well marked, and No. 1 of his kind, and I will take the product and wear
out any other style of breed. Indeed, you have only to appeal to your
better judgment to convince you as to what would result from putting a
jack, seven or eight hands high, to a mare of sixteen or more.

I have witnessed some curious results in mule breeding, and which it may
be well enough to mention here. I have seen frequent instances where one
of the very best jacks in the country had been put to mares of good
quality and spirit. Putting them to such contemptible animals seemed to
degrade them, to destroy their natural will and temper. The result was a
sort of bastard mule, a small-legged, small-footed, cowardly animal,
inheriting all the vices of the mule and none of the horse's virtues--
the very meanest of his kind.

Next: Ancient History Of The Mule

Previous: Physical Construction Of The Mule

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