Difference between Donkey and Mule
A donkey and a mule can be very similar in appearance and they are also often used for similar purposes. Both mules and donkeys have been used as working animals, particularly to carry goods. However, donkeys are a pure species while mules are actually a hybrid produced by the crossing of a donkey with a horse. Mules therefore share some of the characteristics of both the donkey and the horse.
Donkeys are a purebred species. They are one of the oldest domesticated animals. They have been used by humans since about 3000 BC. As mentioned, a mule is the offspring of a donkey and a horse. Specifically, it is the result of a male donkey breeding with a female horse. If a female donkey breeds successfully with a male horse, the resulting offspring, while very similar to a mule, is known as a hinny. It is easier to breed mules than hinnies.
Mules show a mix of characteristics from either side of their family tree. Some look more like donkeys while others are more similar to horses. Typically they have a short mane and long ears of a donkey, with the height and body shape of a horse. Mules also make a sound that is halfway between the bray of a donkey and the whinny of a horse.
Donkeys are typically smaller than horses and mules, with louder voices, longer ears and a sturdier body.
Both donkeys and mules are commonly used as beasts of burden, carrying both goods and people. Mules can vary a great deal in size and strength. These characteristics in mules are essentially determined by the size of their mother. A larger horse will tend to produce larger mules. Donkeys can also vary in size, but they tend to be smaller than mules.
Mules can be more useful than donkeys because they are larger, stronger and nimbler. They can be more patient and longer lived. Although mules cannot carry as much as horses, they have superior endurance. Mules are intelligent and resistant to disease. The infertility of mules can also be useful as it prevents unwanted foals being born.
Donkeys are often thought of as obstinate animals, but they can work hard and be excellent companions when they are treated well. Donkeys are valued for their calm nature and they are often kept alongside horses in order to make use of their calming influence.
Mules are most common in China, Mexico and South and Central America. Donkeys are also most common in China, but they are also commonly found in Pakistan, Mexico and Ethiopia.
Fertility and Chromosome Number
Horses and donkeys are separate species. They do not normally breed together, but it is possible for them to do so and to create hybrid offspring, which may be a mule or a hinny. These offspring will in most cases be infertile, although there are some rare exceptions. Female mules are slightly more likely to be fertile than male mules.
The reason for the infertility of mules and hinnies is that horses and donkeys have different numbers of chromosomes. A horse has 64 chromosomes and a donkey has 62 chromosomes. When they breed, they create offspring with 63 chromosomes.
During reproduction, the chromosomes need to form pairs. This is not possible when there are an odd number of chromosomes since there will always be an extra, unpaired chromosome, so mules and hinnies are infertile. Female mules have very rarely been able to breed with a horse or donkey.
Similarities and Differences
- Mules are infertile hybrids that share some of the characteristics of both of their parents. They offer a compromise between horses and donkeys. Mules can be larger and stronger than donkeys, but with greater endurance than horses.
- Mules are the hybrid offspring of a horse and a donkey.
- Donkeys are a pure species, while mules are almost always infertile.