Last Updated on February 24, 2022 by Allison Price
The terms “mule” or “donkey” are frequently used interchangeably by most equine enthusiasts. Their breed names look and sound the same, and they are often used in metaphors and similes (“stubborn like a mule”/ “stubborn like a donkey”) You may be surprised to discover that they are two different animals. What is the difference between them?
A donkey is its unique species, while a mule is a cross between a horse or donkey and a horse. Mules cannot reproduce and are therefore sterile. Mules can only be born by crossing a donkey and a horse, but they cannot (in most instances) carry on a bloodline.
What’s the difference between Mules & Donkeys? Which is better?
Although they may appear similar, donkeys and mules are two completely different animals. There are many differences between them. Let’s take a look at each species individually.
Donkeys, for one, are a distinct species from horses. Although they are both part of the equine family donkeys are a separate species from horses.
Although donkeys are known for being stubborn , they are actually reliable work animals that have transported people and goods for centuries with incredible stamina.
Donkeys are compatible with horses, and can even breed with each other. The mule is a combination of a male donkey and a female horse.
Because mules inherit the traits of their parents genetically, they are similar to donkeys as well as horses. Cross-breeding can make mules sterile, meaning they are unable to have babies. Cross-breeding is the only way to have a mule.
Donkeys can be easily identified by their long ears. They almost look like a rabbit version of an equine when it comes to physical traits. Mules can have ears as long as they like, but because they are part horse, they can also have ears that extend to the maximum length.
The ears are not the only thing that can be different. Donkeys’ backs are wide and flat. They have smaller hooves than horses.
They have bristly manes and a coarser coat than horses. Their tails look more like a cow’s: a long tail bone covered with short hair.
Mules can look like a donkey or a horse, and there’s no set physical description that all mules will share.
They are therefore not as easy to identify as they look. They tend to inherit from their donkey family when it comes down to having a shorter spine and more ears.Mule
Horse mothers are known for being larger than donkeys and having a delicate bone structure.
Furthermore, mules have shown superior vision to donkeys and horses and a better ability to distinguish their environment. They may also be the most stable of all equines.
This gene splitting makes the well-suited for both hardy, transport work such as donkeys and the same riding disciplines as horses.
The age-old question “One is better than the others” remains. This is completely subjective and will depend on your work ethic or the qualities you seek.
The donkey is the best breeder if you’re looking to breed. Although there have been reports of hinnies and mules reproducing, this is very rare. A mule is the best choice if you want to ride.
The donkey is the most durable, while the mule is the most able to carry more weight due to its larger size.
Donkey vs Mule Personality – Temperament
Apart from physical differences, mules and donkeys have different personalities. When it comes to stubbornness, donkeys have a reputation they can trust.
In the past, donkeys have been known to be stoic in their discomfort. They can also be stoic about discomfort, and will not show any signs of distress if they are sick or injured until their condition has advanced. Mules, despite being strong pillars of strength and able to handle any pain or distress, tend to be more acute.
Donkeys are known for their calm nature. They don’t seem to be bothered by anything.
Mules are less scary than horses but still have a stronger fight or flight instinct than donkeys. This is due to the horse blood. Positive reinforcement and repetitive training are key. They are intelligent and eager to learn. It is as simple as learning their language.
What’s the difference between a donkey and a mule?
Now that you’ve outlined the differences between mules & donkeys, it’s time to mention a third animal name that is often used: the jackass.
This is the twist: A jackass does not necessarily refer to a different animal, but it is a specific donkey. A jackass is simply another name for a donkey, specifically a male donkey.
Is a burro and donkey the same thing or different?
Sometimes, you may hear the terms “burro” and “donkey” interchangeably. But are they the same thing or different animals?
Again, this is a matter of terminology and slight differences. A burro and a donkey are biologically the same animal. However, a burro is usually used to refer to a wild animal while a dokey is used to describe a domesticated one.
Burro, from both a linguistic and geographical perspective, is the Spanish word meaning “donkey”. While “burro,” in the United States, is used to refer to a wild donkey; this may not be true overseas.
I’m Allison, born and raised in San Diego California, the earliest memory I have with horses was at my grandfather’s farm. I used to sit at the stable as a kid and hang out with my Papa while he was training the horses. When I was invited to watch a horse riding competition, I got so fascinated with riding!