MULE. Though this term is not unfrequently applied to the produce of two creatures of different species, and is synonymous with hybrid, yet in its ordinary acceptation it is employed to designate the offspring or "cross" between the equine and asinine species. There are two kinds of mule the Mule proper (Equus Asinus, var. _; Mulus; Fr., Mulet or Grand Mulet; Ger., Grosser Maulesel), which is the hybrid produce of a male ass with a mare, and the Hinny (Equus Asinus, var. _; Hinnus; Fr., BArdot or Petit Mulet; Ger., Kleiner Maulesel), the offspring of the stallion and female ass. The mule is the more valuable of the two, and to its production the attention of breeders is entirely directed. Indeed, the hinny is so rarely produced, owing to the antipathy of the stallion to the female ass, that many authorities deny its existence.
Intercourse between the mare and male ass is very seldom voluntary; indeed, horses will not associate with asses, and combats between them are often serious. The male ass will freely mate with the mare, but the latter has a strong repugnance to him, as has also the stallion for the female ass. Hence in mule-breeding the mare has to be blindfolded and otherwise deceived, or secured in a travis or by ropes, before she will allow the ass to approach her. Fecundation is not so certain between the ass and horse species as between the male and female of either species, for, while of four mares three at least will be fecundated by the stallion, as a rule only two will be so by the ass.
Fecundation of the hybrid female by the male ass or the stallion is very rare; but it is otherwise with the male hybrid, no instance being recorded in which he has been prolific, though physically the animal appears to be perfect, and often exhibits an intense ardour for the female. The female mule, when fecundated, seldom reached the natural term of pregnancy, and rarely brings forth a living offspring. The duration of gestation in a mare impregnated by the ass is a little longer than in impregnation by the stallion, -- the average being 375 days. Abortion readily occurs, and more care is necessary than in breeding horses or asses.
In breeding mules the choice in the male parent is limited so far as shape is concerned, as the best-formed asses have relatively to their height, the head too large, short neck, sides too flat, low narrow hoofs. To obtain thin arms and thighs, and very narrow hoofs. To obtain well-shaped mules, therefore, the selection of the mare is of the greatest importance in remedying the defects of the sire. Mares with a small head, round body, short back, wide chest and muscular croup, large thighs and arms, a long neck well set-on, and wide round hoofs are the best. Height is not of so much moment, but a mare measuring from 14 to 15 hands high is preferable. A good height for the male ass is between 13 and 14 hands. Mules inherit to an extraordinary degree the shape and peculiarities of the sire; from the mare they derive size, but rarely her bad shape or unsoundnesses. This is fortunate, for, though it is always desirable to breed from sound well-formed stock, yet mares so unsound o defective in shape as to be disqualified for horse0breeding may be utilized for mule-breeding.
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