Appreciating the Role of Mules and Donkeys on the Farm

If you need livestock that are versatile and hardy, you will come to appreciate the abilities of mules and donkeys on the farm, perfect as saddle mounts, jumpers and draft animals.


| December 2002/January 2003



Hard-working mules and donkeys on the farm are highly valued.

Hard-working mules and donkeys on the farm are highly valued.


PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Learn about appreciating the role of hard working mules and donkeys on the farm.

Donkeys and mules are remarkably versatile and hardy: They work as farm and pack animals as well as saddle mounts, jumpers and draft animals. Mules and donkeys on the farm are highly valued. Treasured for their intelligence and gentleness, they are sensitive and generally love people. If a mule or donkey is ill-tempered, experts say, it’s a fair bet a human is to blame.

Comparisons to horses come naturally. After all, the animals are members of the Equidae family.

All domestic asses, or donkeys, are descendants of wild asses from Africa and Asia. The endangered Somali ass, though, is the only African wild ass still present in Africa. The donkey’s characteristic dark, cross-shaped dorsal-and-withers stripe derives from the Nubian wild ass (Equus africanus africanus), which is considered extinct. Ancient Egyptian art depicts this animal as that culture’s domesticated beast of burden.

Wild horses and asses were hunted for food and for sport before becoming domesticated. Asses may have become partners with the human race as early as 2,800 B.C., though scholars disagree whether domestication began first in western Asia or northern Africa. More significant is the fact that the ass’ natural habitat was hot, dry, hilly, rocky countryside — very different from the cool, broad steppes (grasslands) where the wild horse originated. These differences in habitat account for some of the behaviors we now attribute to donkeys and their hybrid cousins, mules.

Think of a mule or donkey and the stereotype that immediately comes to mind is stubborn. This perception has some basis in fact, but people who know these animals say they aren’t so much obstinate as cautious. Highly intelligent — their fans would argue that they’re smarter than horses — donkeys and mules are quick learners. Their legendary stubbornness is, in fact, a manifestation of their talent for self-preservation. They stop and think things through, then come to their own conclusions. It’s when those conclusions differ from what humans want them to do that we apply their infamous reputation.

elma_1
12/21/2007 4:58:58 PM

Ran across this great article about donkeys, thinking I may get a few of my own! Hoping to see some donkey owners close to me in NC.


pat_26
4/18/2007 3:00:01 PM

You must admire a donkey who thinks he's a horse! They are the wildest asses around, and often the most lovable.






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