National Mule Day

Today is National Mule Day.

It’s celebrated October 26 every year, honoring a sometimes misunderstood or forgotten animal that has played an important role throughout history.

A mule is the offspring of a male donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a mare). A horse has 64 chromosomes, while a donkey has 62. A mule ends up with 63 and that leaves them, for the most part, unable to reproduce.  Mules are said to get the best of both parents. They have a longer face and ears than a horse, and a different muscle composition, with smoother muscles. Their strength comes from the horse and their intelligence from the donkey.

While mules and donkeys have long been said to be stubborn, experts claim it is more of common sense and a strong desire for self-preservation.  Mules and donkeys are also naturally social with humans and, if treated well, can learn to trust and obey.

In 1784, George Washington received a gift of a Spanish jack donkey from King Charles III of Spain. He named the donkey Royal Gift and the animal arrive at Mount Vernon the following year. Washington intended to crossbreed the jack with his mares to produce mules. At that time, there were few mules in the United States. Those that were there, were often the result of poor breeding and inferior quality. Washington believed robust, well-bred mules would revolutionize agriculture and transportation by improving labor efficiency.

History will show mules involved in nearly every major war. The US military used more than 10,000 mules to carry weapons and supplies through Afghanistan’s rugged hills to Afghan mujahedeen camps in the 1980s, and still uses mules in the military today.

Mules have tougher hides and hooves than horses, can withstand extreme temperatures, and eat less than horses. They can also carry heavier loads for longer distances than horses.  Although mules used to be regarded as mostly work animals, today you might even find them at the US Dressage Finals.

My dad told me when he was a young man and worked in the wheat harvest in the days when they used huge teams to pull the equipment, that the mules could go all day with no problems, but the teams comprised of horses would have to switch out animals because they just couldn’t keep up with the mules.

Mules come in all sizes and colors. Some might be smaller like a donkey, and some look like giants, such as the American Mammoth Jacks that hail back to George Washington’s original mules.

Usually docile, an angry mule can kick both backwards and to the side.

When I was writing Bertie, the sixth book in my historical Pendleton Petticoats series, I worked a cantankerous mule named Steve into the story.

Steve might have stolen the show, or it least it seemed that way based on the number of reader requests I received for more stories about the mule.

From that point on, I made sure to include at least a mention of Steve in each Pendleton Petticoats story, but still the readers wanted more.

One day, I was thinking abut how to do this, and I landed on the idea of writing a children’s story based on Steve.

His human was now a husband and father, so the story has Steve babysitting Willa, his favorite little person.

I found an incredible illustrator in Rob Foote, who brought Steve to life through his amazing illustrations.


And because today is National Mule Day, I’m giving away an autographed copy of Steve the Mule, my sweet children’s book set in 1910.

To enter to win, just post a comment below about which you like best: donkeys, mules, or horses.
One winner will be notified by November 1, 2020.

Void where prohibited. One entry per person.

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121 Responses

  1. LOL I love horses and been around or owned one now for 56 years – also been around mules and donkeys and yes a mule can kick like nothing else I have ever seen and the mean ones are really mean to people! Lovely post! Thanks!

    1. I love horses,but I think having a mule would be fun because they have a different personality from a horse

  2. I love them all. Horses, donkeys and miles are all helpers. Some are more stubborn than others. Your children’s book looks awesome. You are a new to me author. My daughter would love that book. Thanks for the chance.

    1. I can’t really pick one, I mean horses are magnificent, John-Boy rode a mule on The Waltons, and Jesus rode a donkey into Jerusalem….

  3. I’ve always love the majestic wild Beaty of horses but eeyore always had a special place too 😉
    Now Steve the Mule! It would be fun to have a whole series of children’s books with all your animal characters ❤️

  4. Steve is such a fun “character”! Very interesting info. I will say horses because I see since beautiful ones on the way to my son’s school every day. Thanks for the chance!

  5. I have always loved horses, mules and donkeys, We have 2 horses now , When I was young my Uncle use to ride me on the mule and the mule also pulled a sled that I rode on precious memories, We have never had a donkey but have talked about getting one, I would love to have your book for our newest little person in the family,

  6. I’ve always been a horse lover! I’ve never been around mules or donkeys. I found your facts about mules and donkeys fascinating! I’d love to win this one for my great grands. Thank you so much for the chance to win.

  7. A donkey is such a lovable creature. I know that my 4 grandchildren would love and adore this delightful book. Thanks for your beautiful giveaway.

  8. My grandchildren, Ryder and June, would love this book. Their parents read to them at bedtime. I also read to them. Love horses but donkeys and mules are cute too. What’s not to love

  9. My grands would love this book! They are animal lovers, especially horses and donkeys. I’m not sure if they’ve ever seen a mule.

  10. I’m a fan of each of them!!! But my daughters in-laws had a mule named Jenny that was THE BEST! The kids all loved her and she was gentle with them and the other farm animals….even letting the chickens ride on her if they wanted. When we went to another family farm…there was always a chorus of braying when we went into the barn because they had both donkeys and mules……NO horses!! So I guess we know what that family liked best!! This sounds like a fun book!! Thanks for the opportunity to win an autographed copy of it!!

  11. I have to laugh because after hearing it is National Mule Day and your contest question , I can’t get the song, Dominick The Donkey out of my head…:)

    Dominick the Donkey
    Lou Monte
    Hey, chingedy ching, hee haw, hee haw
    It’s Dominick, the donkey
    Chingedy ching, hee haw, hee haw
    The Italian Christmas donkey
    La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
    La, la, la, la, la, la, ladioda
    Santa’s got a little friend, his name is Dominick
    The cutest little donkey, you never see him kick
    When Santa visits his Paesans with Dominick he’ll be
    Because the reindeer cannot climb the hills of Italy
    Hey, chingedy ching, hee haw, hee haw
    It’s Dominick, the donkey
    Chingedy ching, hee haw, hee haw
    The Italian Christmas donkey
    La, la, la, la, la, la, la, la, la
    La, la, la, la, la, la, ladioda

  12. Do I really have to pick just one? I love them all 🙂 But if I have to pick my favorite would be the mule, stubborn like me!!! Thank you for the chance

  13. lets hear it for mules! we need more marvelous mules in all our stories and lives.. what is
    there not to love!!!

  14. Mules are my preference! Our neighbors have donkeys, a mule and horses. The mule is calm and friendly. His face always looks serene and he guards the farm from coyotes.

  15. I am a dog lover and have never been around bigger animals except for milk cow’s. That being said Steve sounds like an awesome story.

  16. Well each one holds a memory or connection for me. My mother-in-law who passed away several years ago owned a couple of donkeys and miniature donkeys. In my hometown we have a large population of horses and a large yearly horse event (The Triple Crown). Finally when we lived in Africa mules were used to transport items. So yeah they all hold a memory.

  17. My friend just got a mule & it’s all she talks about!!! Even posts pictures on Facebook!!! She’s having a riot with it!!! Good for her!!!

  18. This book is a real treasure which the kids would read again and again and enjoy greatly. I love mules, donkeys and horses since they are unique.

  19. The cover of your book is adorable! I’ve always been and still am a huge horse fan first, but think donkeys are just so cute. My favorite “famous” mule is Blue from The Waltons.

  20. Horses. But I really enjoyed your post and leaving more about mules. What a neat history. Your story about Steve sounds darling after reading the backstory to his character’s origins.

  21. As a child I loved horses–they were beautiful. As an adult I have come to appreciate first donkeys then mules. I felt really bad when the economy in Europe resulted in the release of mules into the wild. Although I believe that most of those were either adopted or at least survived that time, ai believe that they deserved better. They are hard working, rather stoic animals but rightly deserve to have temper tantrums when pushed too far. As an adult I love donkeys and mules–other than size I am not really sure what the differences are between them. So glad you wrote the book. I hope it helps others appreciate these hard working creatures of God.

  22. I have been in love with horses since I was 8. Mules are the only way to go in the Grand Canyon. I have a small mule statue by a pic of my husband. Very stubborn. Lol. My grandsons who adore Steve the mule. I really learned a lot from your post. Thank you!

  23. How awesome! I must admit I thought donkeys and mules were the same😣! So thanks for that amazing lesson! My favorite was always Dominic the Donkey in the Italian Christmas song!

  24. Mules , Donkeys and Horses are all cute in their own way !! I don’t have a favorite when it comes to that . The book looks good and also should be a fun read . I would donate my copy to the local library .

  25. While I think horses are beautiful animals and have many fine qualities, I like learning about the durability and practicality of mules. I would love to read about Steve the Mule, and then I’ll donate the book. I know of some mules at an animal rescue farm who defended the female owner from strangers who wandered onto her property with obvious nefarious intent. So, that tells me that they are indeed intelligent.

  26. Horses! I grew up around horses! My 11 year old daughter loves horses. We got her an old horse to love on a few years ago. Sadly he was older then we were told and he didn’t make it very long! My poor girl still grieves for her horse.

  27. I love horses, but I have to admit that Steve is so cool. He is funny and stubborn and so full of life. I can’t wait to read his story.

  28. I’ve not had a lot of experience with any of these. I think horses are beautiful! But I enjoy the strong personalities that I’ve seen donkeys and mules often have. It’s a toss up! 🤷‍♀️

  29. I love all animals! But I would have to pick mules, since that’s the only one that I’ve ridden. When I was a little girl my grandpa had mules and we rode them a couple times.

  30. I love horses, but I live in the city so I have had only a few encounters with horses. I know my 3 grandsons, Elijah, Isaiah, and Rumbly, a/k/a Steven would love this book.

  31. As a kid, I had my own horse. Loved going on trail rides. A few months ago, I visited my sister. She has two donkeys to help guard their cows. Her donkeys were sweet, but skittish. She told me the story of how the first donkey met their huge bull. He got too close, so she kicked him in the face. He leaves her alone now. I‘ve never been around a mule. My favorite is still horses.

  32. I love the Mule with their huge ears….
    No whispering secrets with a mule around…
    But Mules will hear all but not tell…

  33. I love horses and always wanted one, still do. I love all animals, donkeys and mules too. Steve sounds adorable and I have a three y.o. grandson to read it too.

  34. I love all animals but a mule we had brought us the most laughter. I have so many funny stories about the one we owned. Our farm was pretty isolated but we’d occasionally have “city” folk cone riding out our way. A carful of them stopped onthedirt road and asked us to make the donkey say heehaw. My sisters and I looked at each other with disbelief. I sarcastically asked the donkey to say hello to the city folks and damned if he didnt walk the field over as close to the road he could go and brayed long and loud! Lol

  35. I can’t say for sure, never been around any donkey, mule or horses though I’m from South Texas. I love how all horses are beautiful but then so are all of God’s creatures. I would pick mule though since they have the best of both genes. Plus I thought Steve was a great character and would like to introduce him to my kiddos. 🙂

  36. Love your stories and love all of God’s creatures. One of my favorite true tale is about one of our goats that was born blind but lived a full life thanks to her pal goat, April. April wore a bell so Helen could know where she was and would follow her everywhere. No one ever bothered Helen as April would protect her.

  37. I like the mule best because with it you get all three. It’s 50% horse, 50% donkey and 100% mule. It’s the funniest looking of the three, so it needs the most love! My grandchildren would love for me to read this to them.

  38. I love horses; though Francis the talking mule movies were lots of fun. Thank you for the chance and considering getting this story either way

  39. I’ve only had a limited experience with horses. A riding class in college. I am aware that mules are used in trail rides at the Grand Canyon National Park. My livestock experiences are book related in general.

  40. My Father bred Appaloosa Horses with Quarter Horses and showed his horses a lot in Walla Walla several years ago. I, therefore was around horses. At church camp we rode donkeys as kids, but I loved everything you have educated us on mules. I, of course, have read about the 20 mule teams of long ago. Love your books ( now reading the Hardman, Oregon ones) and always learn a lot about the areas you write about.

  41. I have seen all three and I like the Mule the best. It has traits from both parents and I think it’s cute and smart. Thanks.

  42. Reading this message about mules was fun and informative! I have always thought of mules as being very stubborn but did not realize they are intelligent as well. I look forward to reading Steve the Mule. I enjoy reading all of your books, and have read most of them! Thank you for the clean, wonderful romances as well as the historical portions, and your recipes!

  43. What a beautiful blog. Horses have always been my favorite. When I was about 5 years old, my next door neighbor Alex had a mule named Snoopy, I had a horse named King. We always told our parents that we were going to run off on our mounts to Kentucky and get married.

  44. I love them all. They will follow you around and they help my autistic son stay calm. He finds mules and donkeys more calming than horses. When I was younger if a dog came into our yard my horse would yell at it until it left. He wasn’t in the fence he would chase them off but never left the yard.

  45. I had no idea you do children’s books. We love animals. We have two cats Romeo and Rona. Excited to read this book. Thank you.

  46. My daughter rode horses and loved them. I started out being terrified of them, but soon learned what smart and sweet animals they are.

  47. Horses first, then donkeys and mules evenly in second place. All in the equine family are beautiful and majestic. BTW we lived in Pendleton from March to November 1983. We miss Oregon.

  48. I’ve not been around donkeys or mules much. We used horses in therapy for special needs kids and adults, so I guess I prefer horses, but that might be because I’m unfamiliar with donkeys and mules. Happy Mule Day!

  49. I love horses the best but have known a sweet donkey by the name of Sarah Sue. She was my sister Julie’s . She bought her at an auction for $5 when no one else bid on her. Sarah Sue lived out her days ( several more years) at our house well loved by Julie. I’ve never had the opportunity to be around a mule. – yet!

  50. I love mules . They are great companions. They can and respond to if you are happy or sad. They are very loving.

  51. I haven’t been around to many mules, so not sure about them. I imagine they can have an attitude but they probably don’t mind people, unless they don’t like them.

  52. I love them all! My second mom has a horse named Merlin and he is a sweetheart! Plus my friend has a mule and she is a sweetheart too.

  53. I would have said my favorite was the horse until I read your post on mules. Now they have my admiration. I can’t help but appreciate a common sense animal.

  54. I haven’t been around any of them very much. I’ve been on horseback only a couple times. Their varied histories, similarities, & differences are fascinating. I’d say horses because when my son got his service dog, that grew up on a farm, they said horses were really a lot like very big dogs. ❤️

  55. I really love mules. Yes I do. They have kind sweet faces with the biggest floppy ears.They may have a tough coat but they are protected from bees that can get in their blanket or under there sadle.
    I go to the State Fair every year just so I can talk softly to the mules. I tell them to come here, come on, I’m not gonna hurt ya. Usually the strongest comes first. I scratch behind his ears and he tells the rest to come on .I pet behind everyone’s ears. It seems like so of the mules are there every year. No one is interested in them but me.

  56. I have horses, but have a longstanding love of the long ears! My adopted grandfather had mules that he used for hunting and trail riding. The long ears are awesome jumpers! Our 4-H club had families that brought mules, donkeys and even a burro to jumping practice.

  57. Oh, your book looks adorable!! I shared your blog post with Mom while at her house and she told me a few funny stories about horses. She did the normal pony ride in a circle led by a rope as a “young’n”, then told me about when she was a little older how there was a photographer in her neighborhood that had a pony and would take your picture on it for a price. She didn’t have any money so he followed her all the way home (a few city blocks) while she rode the pony to say “Look, Mom!,” get the picture taken, and collect the money 💰 — all while surprising her mom, of course — so great! 😂 Then as an adult, her fellow teachers went on a horse ride and her horse kept laying down every time there was a tree, scaring her to death; he’d literally stop and lay down, holding everyone up. The owners of the ride would have to pull him up each time to continue. At the end of the trail, the owners admitted that because my mom had never been on a horse, they’d given her a mule. Not sure why exactly but you’d probably know why, Shanna. That reminds me of the ONE time I’ve ever gone horseback riding. My horse kept walking me into the tree trunks the whole time. Ouch, not fun! My legs and elbows were so banged up on both sides depending on which side the trees were on. They did tell me at the start, though, that the horse was blind in one eye so I guess it affected her sight on both sides! Between banging into trees and swatting horseflies with my hands the whole ride because the owners told us to swat them as hard as we could because they hurt the horses, I was a little disheartened with my experience. I wouldn’t mind going again sometime; heard since then that there is fly spray, so maybe somewhere where they care for them better that way (?)…Plus, my best friend growing up used to visit her relatives in Sicily every summer and they lived upstairs and the downstairs was a garage with a dirt floor and the car and…the donkey! Yep, they owned a donkey. There are a lot of hills in Sicily so a pack donkey comes in handy. Right now, I just researched a tidbit: a donkey in Sicily, well-kept, can live up to 35 years, making for a long-term friend to humans and other animals. WOW!! I bet you thought I was done, but no, there’s one more thing. I just lOVE Donkey in Shrek — how could you not?!! So, long story short, my favorite of the three is…I can’t decide. Being an animal lover, I really can’t. The only thing I can say is that I’m very grateful that there seems to be times when animals’ old age or handicaps don’t stop them from bringing joy to people. Like I rode the blind horse and my mom rode the mule when she wasn’t familiar with a horse and I’m sure horses whose race days are over can provide joy at dude ranches, horse lessons, horse therapy, trails, etc. Or just as someone’s pet in retirement. Keeping my 🤞🏻 for the chance to read your autographed book!! 😁

  58. My brother had a mule when I was young but I don’t really remember it. My husband’s grandfather plowed with mules and his dad loved them too. Would love to have a copy of your children’s book. Thanks for all the information about mules, it was very interesting and very informative. We have seen some very fine mules at horse auctions before, there was even one that could rack/single foot, which is the same gait a Tennessee Walker has.

  59. Horses hold the biggest part of my heart but I do love mules and donkeys too. Steve’s antics in the book makes me so happy. I’d be thrilled to receive a copy of this book.

  60. I think they are all cute in their own special way. Steve The Mule sounds like a really cute book. Thank you so much for the chance.

  61. I have enjoyed donkeys in the past! The ones I have met had great personality!! I have been around quite a few horses, though I’m really not much of a rider. I haven’t had the honor of spending time with any mules, but I have seen a couple of mule teams preform at rodeos!

  62. I think donkeys and mules are so cute, don’t know a whole lot about them but what you posted and they seem to be a very strong and important animal. I would love to win this for my 6 year old granddaughter. Thanks for the chance!

  63. We’ve had all 3 on our farm. The miniature mule we had wasn’t friendly enough to pet. We adopted wild burros from Arizona they took a while before you could handle them. The miniature horses we have now are very gentle. Our granddaughters ride them now.

  64. I love the beauty of horses, but really want a donkey or mule. The practical strengths they have are useful, and I really want to BE friends with one- or more. Your book sounds adorable!

  65. Before reading this article I may have answered horses, but after reading it, I’ll go with mules 🙂

  66. Hi, Shanna!
    This is hilarious! “National Mule Day”!
    Any way, I do love horses but each creature has its own importance. Mules are stubborn and often hard to train, yet they are strong and can be great is hauling heavy items. They endure well.
    Donkey’s are cute, gentle and small, yet strong. They have to be very special to be chosen to carry Mary and the Christ Child on such a long arduous trip. Years later, Christ chose the donkey to carry Him into Jerusalem where he knew He would be killed.
    Horses – as true of many animals – have as much varying intelligence and as many personalities as humans do. Although they can be more easily trained than mules, they still an get “skittish” and are s unpredictable as most humans.
    With this all said, how can one chose a favorite? It is like comparing “apples’ and oranges”.
    I would love to add this book to my children’s’ section!

  67. I love horses but I haven’t been exposed to donkeys or mules. Would love to win a copy of this book for my grandsons. I could probably learn a lot by reading it to them. Ha!

  68. I believe that each species has been created for specific purposes. Horses are beautiful and ride the smoothest. Donkeys will keep your pasture safe from predators and mules are built to carry the load. Mules are amazing workers and have earned the respect from many farmers and ranchers.

  69. Probably horses. I have never really been around mules or donkeys. I do love to read your books and I believe I have read them all and look forward to each new one. I love how the cities and towns are ones I know and easily visualize.

  70. I’ve loved horses and mules my whole life. I have horses and a miniature donkey right now and would love to someday add a mule to my herd!

  71. I love horses, I used to take riding lessons and it was amazing. I also love hearing about the history of the mule and where they were used to help us, like in the coal mines here in the northeast of Pennsylvania.

  72. I like horses the best. My youngest son was born 12 weeks early, and he has cerebral palsy. He does horse therapy to help with his balance and spastic muscles. It is great to watch how good the horses are with the clients.

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