The American Mammoth Jackstock Mule

Meet the American Mammoth Jackstock draft mule, bred by George Washington for its tall and sturdy stance, with thick legs and massive well-made head.

Despite a long history of livestock breed development in America, few breeds can claim they originated from the vision of an American president. The American Mammoth Jackstock, however, can.

Photo by Jeannette Beranger

George Washington understood the growth of our new country would be dependent on superior draft animals, such as the fine working mules of Europe. At the time, America didn’t possess the large donkeys needed to breed such desirable animals. But during Washington’s presidency, the king of Spain gifted him with an Andalusian jack (a male donkey) named Royal Gift, along with two jennets (female donkeys) of the same breed. Not long afterward, Washington’s long-time friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, sent him a jack and two jennets from the Isle of Malta. Washington bred the Maltese jack with one of the Andalusian jennets and produced a fine breeding jack he named Compound. When Washington bred Compound with horses, the outcome was exceptional animals that were superior in their working abilities and endurance compared with oxen or horses. By the time of Washington’s death, mules sired by Compound sold for about $200 apiece, which today would equal nearly $3,000 each. George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate still keeps and works these Mammoth Jackstock mules as a testament to the work Washington did to create the magnificent breed.

Mammoth Jacks are tall and sturdy with substantially thick legs and massive, well-made heads. Their ears are one of their outstanding trademarks, often measuring 33 inches from tip to tip. Breeders must pay close attention to size and bone in their animals. According to the American Mammoth Jackstock Association, jacks are expected to stand no less than 14.2 hands (58 inches) high at the withers and 61 inches around the heart girth. Jennets and geldings can be no less than 14 hands (56 inches) and have the same heart girth as jacks. Many Mammoth Jacks grow to be taller than this, with weights ranging between 900 and 1,200 pounds. Young donkeys may be registered if both parents are registered stock; however, the youngsters must be re-evaluated by 5 years of age to ensure they meet the size requirements for the breed.

Breed numbers for American Mammoth Jackstock came to a peak in the early 20th century, with an estimated 5,000,000 animals in the national herd. As agriculture became more dependent on mechanized tools, the mule slowly lost favor on the American farm. Today, The Livestock Conservancy has the Mammoth Jackstock listed as “critical,” with less than 200 annual registrations for the breed.

I had the opportunity to encounter two exceptionally sweet Mammoth Jackstock donkeys, Jaxon and Chloe, a few years back at the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR in Topeka, Kansas. The animals belonged to Dwite and Mary Sharp of Paradise Ranch Adventures LLC, who utilized the donkeys for trail riding and packing tours. I asked Dwite about his start with donkeys, which took him back a good number of years to when he first graduated high school and began a career playing donkey basketball for the Reynolds Company in San Bernardino, California. He was hooked immediately by the personality and intelligence of these animals and has never looked back.

9/16/2019 10:17:47 PM

"The American Mammoth Jackstock Mule". I was hoping that was a misprint, but in reading the article, apparently not. There is no such thing as an American Mammoth Jackstock mule. There are the American Mammoth Jackstock donkeys - then there are mules - many sired by the AMJ donkey. George Washington was sent two Spanish jacks before he was President. One jack died at sea, the other arrived in the colonies, Royal Gift. He was not Andalusian. No jennets - of any breed were sent to Washington from Spain. Lafayette did obtain a Maltese jack and two Maltese jennets, and these were sent to Washington - this after unsuccessfully trying to smuggle a jack out of Cadiz, Spain for his beloved General. The Spanish jack bred one of the Maltese jennets, and it was the result of that union that one of his favorite jack foals was born - Compound - who he later stood at stud (documented in Washington's letters). The registry standards listed are inaccurate - jacks, gelded or not are not grouped in with jennets for measurement. It is a shame that TLC (formerly ALBC) persists in perpetuating inaccuracies about this donkey breed. The confusion in the article regarding Jackstock/mule should be embarrassing. Regurgitating misinformation about this breed that has been repeated since 1825 does nothing for those who want to know the true history of the breed. What a shame.

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