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.

Diseases Common To The Mule And How They Should Be Treated Diseases Of The Teeth facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail