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  • Writer's pictureKathy Winkler Studio

You Are My Best Friend

These two elder male mules reside at the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum. I have been hanging out with them off and on for the past seven years, and they always move in tandem, especially if you want to walk up close to their paddock. I love their huge, expressive eyes. You definitely know when they are staring at you.

I always wanted to do at least one painting of mules. They are such interesting members of the equine family. A mule is a hybrid between a male donkey (a jack) and a female horse (a mare). Mules have 63 chromosomes, a mixture of the horse’s 64 and the donkey’s 62. The different structure and number usually prevents the chromosomes from pairing up properly and creating successful embryos, rendering most mules infertile.

There is a once-in-a-million, genetically “impossible” occurrence of a mule giving birth, however it occurred as recently as 2004 in Morocco. There is much superstition surrounding such an occurrence as well. In this case, locals feared it signaled the end of the world. When it happened in Albania in 1994, the fear was that this marvel unleashed the spawn of the devil on a small village.

I visited a museum at Texas A&M University many years ago, and there were three, mounted taxidermy heads of mules. Supposedly, the case was undocumented, occurring in the 1920s. A mule gave birth to a mule when the sire was a donkey and then to a horse when the sire was a stallion.


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