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The term mule (Latin mulus) formerly applied to the offspring of any two creatures of different species -- in modern usage, a "hybrid". In its common modern meaning, "mule" describes the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse. Compare hinny -- the offspring of a stallion and a female donkey.

The mule, easier to breed and usually larger in size than a hinny, has monopolised the attention of breeders. Male mules and hinnies are both sterile, and although cases have occurred where female mules and hinnies have borne foals, most are infertile.

In its short thick head, long ears, thin limbs, small narrow hooves, short mane, absence of chestnuts (horny growths) inside the hocks, and tail destitute of hair at the root, the mule appears asinine in form. In height and body, shape of neck and croup, uniformity of coat, and in teeth it appears equine. It has the voice neither of the ass nor of the horse, but emits a feeble hoarse noise. Most mules have a brown or bay-brown coat -- bay, or bright bay, or piebald occur rarely; a chestnut tint sometimes appears.

The mule possesses the sobriety, patience, endurance and sure-footedness of the ass, and the vigour, strength and courage of the horse. Operators of beasts of burden generally find mules preferable to horses: mules show less impatience under the pressure of heavy weights, while their skin, harder and less sensitive than that of horses, renders them more capable of resisting sun and rain.

Humans have used mules from early times; the inhabitants of Mysia and Paphlagonia allegedly bred the first ones. The ancient Greekss and especially Romanss valued mules for transport, employing them to draw carriages and carry loads. In the early 20th century use of mules survived mainly in military transport.

Mules have become far less common since the rise of the automobile, the motorized tractor, and other internal combustion-powered vehicles. They still find employment in less-developed countries, and in certain specialized roles in industrialized nations: they can handle narrow, steep trails -- such as the route down into the Grand Canyon -- that remain unsuitable for motor vehicles or horses.

based on an article from 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica

Muleshoe, Texas has a National Mule Memorial.

External links

British Mule Society

The Mule appears as a fictional character in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series.

Modern usage may designate as a mule someone who knowingly smuggles something onto an airplane or across a national border, but does not know the contents of what he or she smuggles. For example, a terrorist may tell someone that a package contains diamonds and persuade him or her to smuggle it; however, the package actually contains a bomb. A related meaning applies to any person who smuggles things on an airplane, whether or not they have knowledge of the payload; those carrying drugs are often called drug mules.

In video games, and in particular in Massively Multiplayer On-line Roleplaying Games a mule is a subsidiary character used as a beast of burden. Rather than using this character to actively participate in the game, the player who controls it just needs a way to hold and transport goods, and perhaps to obtain more of some resources which are limited on a per-character basis by the game rules. Many people regard the need for or use of mules in a game as a design flaw.