Is a Mare Mule or Horse Mule Better For You?

A lot of folks I know that have experience with mules prefer mare mules over horse mules. A mare mule is a female mule, also called a “molly”. A horse mule is a male mule and is also called a “john” mule. It gets even more complicated with donkeys so let’s save that for another day.

“I’m beautiful and I know it.” My mare mule Brick (Love Valley, NC)

In general, a mare mule is a little less, shall we say, “mule-y” than a horse mule. She will often be a little milder-tempered than a male mule. While the horse mules are down on their knees in the pasture, pinning each other to the ground, the mare mules might just be playing tag. As my buddy Ronald Hudson says, mare mules are less prone to “beaten and a’bangin'” than horse mules.

A horse mule doing what a horse mule does: horsing around. Here, my mule Cracker, a horse mule, rough-housing with my wife’s gelding Magneto.

Mare mules have a reputation among old-timers for being a little easier to handle than horse mules. When I look at the mules that my friends Ronald Hudson, Wayne Hussey and Kenny Tyndall use, most of them are mare mules. They say they’re just a bit easier to work with.

Wayne Hussey’s 4-up. They are all mare mules. Wayne has driven a big hitch through the Rose Bowl parade, the ultimate test of a team’s trustworthiness. This photo was taken at Robbins Farmers Day. I attended with my mule Polly and you can see a lot more of those photos right here.
My buddy Kenny Tyndall’s mare mules Mary and Jane. Here we’re driving 110 miles from Kenny farm in Raeford, North Carolina to Sunset Beach.
Ronald Hudson, Kenny Tyndall and my wagons at sunset beach. Four out of five of the mules pictured are mare mules.

Polly, the mule I traveled across America with for the “Lost Sea Expedition” public TV series was a mare mule. Brick, the mule I rode from North Carolina to Virginia and back with my wife Julia, was a mare mule. I like mare mules.

Looking for a Mare Mule

When I started looking for a second mule to ride from North Carolina out west, I only looked at mare mules. There wasn’t much on the market. I looked at mules that were too fat and mules that were too long and mules that were too small. All of them were mare mules because that’s what I wanted.

Me: Sir, do I look too big?
Him: Absolutely not.
Mare mule: Sir, please get off my back. You’re too big.
This was a great kid-broke mule. I was just looking for something a little larger.

Six weeks before I left on my trip, I still didn’t have a mule. Julia heard of a nice one close by. I didn’t want to look at it because it was a horse mule. She said it might be worth it. We went for a look.

Trying out the mule Julia thought I should look at. (Ronda, North Carolina)

He ended up being fantastic and I bought him. His name was Jethro. I renamed him. That’s how I ended up with my mule Cracker. He took great care of me on my trip from North Carolina to Idaho and I love him.

So much for hard and fast rules.

Let me Give You a Heads-up About the New Book

I’d be happy to let you know when the new “Trash to Triumph”, the book about my trip from North Carolina to Idaho comes out.

A scene from the book: Cracker and Brick after walking 1,400 miles from our farm in western North Carolina to Hyannis, Nebraska. Julia is sitting on Cracker. She came to visit me while I was on the road. You can sign up here and I’ll send you an email when the new book comes out.

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