Difference Between Mules and Horses

The difference between mules and horses relies upon their parents and fertility. Horse and Mule belong to the same family, ‘Equidae’ and more or less they look very similar. But, both the creatures have different physical and genetic traits that we will discuss in this post.

A mule is an animal created by breeding donkeys and horses together. Mules have a jack (male donkey) as a father and a mare (female horse) as a mother.

Mules carry 63 chromosomes after fertilization of horse egg cells (32 chromosomes) with the donkey sperm (31 chromosomes). Due to different animals and the presence of an odd number of chromosomes, mules remain sterile or unable to produce gametes.

A horse is an animal resulting after crossing over between a male horse and a female horse. Horses have a stallion (male horse) as a father and a mare (female horse) as a mother.

Horses carry 64 chromosomes after fertilization of horse egg cells (32 chromosomes) with the horse sperm (32 chromosomes). They can reproduce offspring.

This post describes key differences between mules and horses along with the comparison chart. You will also know the definition and similarities between mules and horses.

Content: Mules Vs Horses

  1. Comparison Chart
  2. What are Mules?
  3. What are Horses?
  4. Key Differences
  5. Similarities
  6. Conclusion

Comparison Chart

PropertiesMulesHorses
Scientific nameEquus mulusEquus caballus
Genetic Differences
ParentsA mule is a hybrid animal resulting from the cross-breeding of a female horse with a male donkeyA horse is an animal resulting from mating between a male horse and a female horse
Number of chromosomesMules have an odd number of chromosomes, i.e. 63Horses have 64 chromosomes
Male typeMale mules are called John mulesMale horses are called stallion horses
Female typeFemale mules are called molly mules or mare mulesFemale horses are called mare horses
Differences in Physical Characteristics
BodyMules have a small body-size than a horse but leaner than a donkeyHorses are fairly large
HeightUsually 4 ft. tallRanges typically between 62 to 72 inches
WeightWeigh between 50 to 800 lbsWeigh between 700 to 1000 Kg
EarsLonger ears than the horseShort ears
TailMules have a short tail, but long hairs on the itHorses have long tail hairs which grow from the dock
ManeShort maneMane has coarse hairs that extend from the dorsal ridge of the neck
LegsThin limbsThey have long slender legs
HoovesNarrow, oval and more upright hooves, but harder than horsesOval-shaped hooves
HeadShort and thick headLarge and elongated head
Colour rangeSorrel, black, bay and grey coloured mules are more commonBlack, bay, chestnut, palomino, cream and white coloured horses are more common
Differences in Traits
Endurance and physical strengthLike donkeys, mules are strong and considered resilient working animals that can pack a lot of weight for a substantial distance. Also, they can resist adverse conditionsHorses have low endurance and physical strength than mules
Food and StaminaMules eat less food (hay) and have more stamina (can work for longer without food and water)Horses comparatively need more food than mules to meet their thirst and hunger and have less stamina as they cannot exercise longer without a break
Trail-ridingMules are more surefooted in rugged terrain than horses due to stronger hoovesThey are less efficient in trail riding
Learning skillsLike donkeys, mules are more patient, steadier and smarter than horsesHorses are flighty and impatient
ReflexesMules have both freeze and flight reflexesHorses have flight reflexes
Self-preservationMules are docile and intelligent, and they are cautious of danger. They have good self-preservation instincts, so they neither endanger themselves nor the riderThey’ll follow other herd members into a wreck. They’ll get into a flight mode in stressful conditions
Skin resistanceLike donkeys, their skin is thick and resistant to irritation, due to excessive heat and rain Horses have thin coats due to which they easily get skin irritation from heat, rain and other factors
Other Differences
SpeedMules have an average speed of up to 15 miles per hourHorses have an average speed of 55 miles per hour
Vocal noiseThey make whimpering noises, including whinnying and brayingHorses make neighs and whinnies noises
Life spanMules can live longer, generally up to 35 to 40 yearsHorses have an average life span of 25 to 30 years
ReproductionMules are sterile. But, in rare cases they can give birth to offspringHorses can reproduce offspring

What are Mules?

A mule is a genetically hybridized animal produced from a male donkey and a female horse. The size of a mule depends upon the mother or female horse, based on which mules can be heavy, medium or lightweight.

Mules have 63 chromosomes. A mule is a bred of a horse and donkey, so it shares features common to both.

Features Similar to Donkeys

  • Short and thick head
  • Long ears
  • Thin limbs
  • Small and narrow hooves
  • Short mane

These were some physical traits inherited in a mule from its father, sire or male donkey. Besides that, a mule inherits traits of sure-footedness, endurance, patience, toughness and self-preservation from a father donkey.

Features Similar to Horses

  • Height and body frame
  • The shape of the neck and rump
  • Uniformity of coat teeth

These were some physical attributes inherited in a mule from its mother, dam or female horse. Besides that, a mule inherits speed, intelligence, and agility traits from a mother horse.
mule vs horse

What are Horses?

Horses are domesticated hoofed mammals. They evolved from multi toad creature “Eohippus”. A mare is a female horse, and a stallion is a male horse. Horses have 64 chromosomes.

Features relative to the Body Structure

  • Large elongated head
  • Long thick neck
  • Ears are slender and upright
  • Mane extends from the dorsal side of the neck
  • Specialized teeth for grazing
  • Oval-shaped hooves
  • Long-tail
  • Muscular and deep torso
  • The colour of the coat ranges from white to black
  • Mass: 227 to 900 kg
  • Height: 0.9 to 1.7 meters

Traits

They have a strong flight or fight behaviour. Also, features like speed, agility and endurance are characteristics of horses. They can sleep both standing up and lying down. Horses communicate among their herd members through various facial gestures and vocalizations.

Key Differences Between Mules and Horses

  1. A mule is a hybrid animal resulting from the cross-breeding of a female horse having 64 chromosomes, with a male donkey having 62 chromosomes. In contrast, a horse is an animal resulting from mating between a male horse and a female horse with equal or 64 chromosomes.
  2. Mules are smaller in body size than horses but leaner than donkeys. They are usually 4 ft. tall and weigh between 50 to 800 lbs. In comparison, horses are relatively large, with a height of  62 to 72 inches and weight between 700 to 1000 kg.
  3. Mules are preferred over horses in terms of endurance, trail riding, learning skills, self-preservation, and skin sensitivity. However, horses are preferred over mules in terms of intelligence, speed, and agility.
  4. As a mule share features similar to both horses and donkeys, it makes whimpering noises (including whinnying and braying). Horses make neighs and whinnies noises.

Similarities

  • Both mules and horses are herd animals.
  • Mules and horses are herbivores that rely upon grasses and grassland plants.
  • Both are domesticated animals used in transporting goods, military campaigns, sports etc.
  • Foxes, wolves and lions are predators of a mule and a horse.

Conclusion

Thus, mules and horses look very similar, but they are different. The physical traits and appearance of a mule share some common characteristics with both horse and donkey.

A mule inherits traits like body size, endurance, strength, intelligence, and perseverance from donkeys. Mules appear as miniatures of horses, and their athletic skills are similar to horses.

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