Hinny versus Mule: how to distinguish them?

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In the Equine family, horses and donkeys are two typical and most common species. Therefore, their hybrid babies are also well-known and useful to humans. 

There are so many questions about these two interesting animals. Let’s find out through this article. 

 

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Are Mules and Hinnies Horses?

To answer this question, let’s have a look at how scientists divide animals into different species. 

Basically, each animal would have a unique gene with a certain number of chromosomes. This determines the mornolophy and behavior. 

The number of chromosomes of horses, donkeys and mules (same for hinnies) is 64, 62, and 63 respectively. This clearly shows that mules and hinnies are not horses. They are the hybrid of horses and donkeys which possess quite a lot of differences from their parents. 

When observing a mule or a hinny, you may find their appearance and behavior somewhat similar to horses and donkeys. This is a result of genetics. 

 

Is it a mule, or is it a hinny?

Mule and hinny may look identical but their original parentage tells the difference here. Before coming to the detail part where I compare these two, let’s have a quick look to see if there is an easy way to tell them apart. 

Based on their popularity

A mule is the offspring of a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey). This type takes the majority of the cases for mixing horse and donkey with a simple reason – higher fertility rate (about 90% successful breeding).

A hinny is the offspring of a stallion (male horse) and jenny (female donkey). The minority of hinny is because of the fact that their fertility is only less than 15%. 

These two numbers mean most of the cases where you see an offspring of a horse and a donkey, the possibility of a mule is higher by nature. 

Based on modern gene testing

There are cases when people want to check if their hybrid is a mule or a hinny but did know their parents. 

The modern gene testing in the lab now could show the result via the DNA technique. For breeders, ranchers, horse associations, animal science professionals, and researchers, this method is helpful to manage the equid herds and pedigree registers with more confidence and precision.

 

Hinny and Mule comparison

Physical characteristic

Although it is said to be really hard to distinguish a mule and a hinny. There are some parts you can see the differences. Let’s take a look!

Mules’ body is similar to a horse while hinnies’ body take after their mother – donkeys. The ears of mules are longer which look a bit like donkeys. In general, the face of hinnies look like horses.

For hinnies, their appearances vary a lot. You can find hinnies with different combinations of coat colors, spots or patterns. On the contrary, mules don’t have many options for their clothes. 

Moreover, you may find hinnies with fuller tails. shorter backs, and rounder hooves compared to mules. 

Mules are called the hybrid vigor as they show qualities superior to both parents, which means they have all the best characteristics from horse and donkey. 

Mules and hinnies are divided into 3 height ranges for the purpose of riding. The mules at the Saddle size could support a rider. 

  • Miniature: 12 hands
  • Saddle: 13 to 16 hands
  • Draft: 17 hands

Behaviors

I guess you probably hear the sentence said “stubborn as a mule”. This is based on the common belief that the hybrid of horses and donkeys is very bullheaded and hard to train. However, this is not literally true. 

These animals are actually quick learners and really smart. Because of this, mules are aware of the danger and become self-reserved. You need to gain your trust. Once this “easy” job is done, mules are playful, affectionate and loyal to the owners. 

 

What are Hinny and Mule used for?

Due to their hybrid vigor characteristics, the mule and hinny have been used worldwide for carrying goods and people, and for tilling the land from the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, China, and the Roman Empire.

Moreover, hinnies and mules are used in therapeutic riding programs for the disabled. This therapy brings amazing results to enhance the lives of people who might otherwise give up on life. 

 

Can Hinny and Mule reproduce?

 

Due to the odd number of chromosomes (63) which only contains 19 pairs that can share information to their next generation. This is the reason why mules are believed to be sterile. 

Before this kinda complicated biological reason, there are literally very few cases when mules and hinny can reproduce. This also consolidates to the common belief. 

However, there are cases of mule and hinny can reproduce. For example in Morrocco (late 1990s), China (hinny that produced a foal named Dragon in the 1980s), and most recently, a mule bred to a jack in a pasture in Colorado in 2008. (Source: https://horses.extension.org/is-there-a-chance-that-a-mule-may-reproduce-if-bred/)

 

FAQs

What is a cross between a horse and a donkey?

A hinny is the offspring of a stallion (male horse) and jenny (female donkey).

A mule is the offspring of a mare (female horse) and a jack (male donkey)

Do Mules have a gender?

Mules can be considered either female or male (androgyne or bisexual) due to the number of chromosomes (63) they receive from the parents. 

Why are mules more common than Hinnies?

With a higher fertility rate (about 90% successful breeding) mules take the majority. This is such a huge number compared to only 15% of hinnies. 

Moreover, as the physical appearance and temper of mules is easier to support humans in many jobs, they tend to be preferred to hinnies. Therefore, while mules are the result of a discerning marriage, hinnies are often made by mistakes. 

Are mules good to ride?

Mules possess great self-preservation instinct. 

This means they would do everything to keep themselves safe from dangerous places or paths. Once you are on their back, they could share the safety with you. 

However, this also means you need to gain their trust to direct them to go on your ways.

What is a molly mule?

Sometimes, the female mules are called molly mules. This is not an official name by the scientists, just like a nickname. 

How long do mules live for?

Quite a lot longer than their parents – horses and donkeys. 

The average lifespan for mules is between 35 and 40 years old.

In cases of well-caring, some mules have been known to live until 50 years old. 

What is a female hinny called?

You can simply call a female hinny as a mare hinny. This is the most common name. Sometimes, jennets could be used as well. 

Can mules run as fast as horses?

Mules are slower than horses in speed. As horses were born to run, mules are born to live on the rocky mountainous area with the purpose to support delivery things. 

Further reading: DNA test for mules and hinnies

Teresa Tina
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Hi, I am Tina - the owner of this little blog about horses. I have spent more than 3 years to learn everything to take care of my horse. I would love to share my knowledge and tips. Stay tune for more interesting facts and posts!