Donkey vs. Mule

Donkey vs. Mule

Donkey and mule are hoofed mammals that belong to the horse family. Donkey is a descendant of African wild ass. It has been domesticated 5000 years ago. Mule is hybrid created via cross-breeding of female horse (mare) and male donkey (jack). There are 185 breeds of donkey and numerous varieties of mules that can be found around the world today. Donkey and mule are very important and often used in agriculture and for transportation of people and goods. Despite many similarities in the morphology, donkey and mule can be easily distinguished thanks to the following features:


Donkey has 62 chromosome while mule has 63 chromosomes. Both male and female mules are sterile. In rare instances, female mule is able to produce offspring.

Size and Morphology of Ears

Mule is taller and larger than donkey. It has smaller ears whose shape resembles the ears of horse.


Donkey is covered with thick, coarse coat that is usually grey in color. It has dark stripe on the shoulders and dorsal stripe that stretches from mane to the tail. Donkey can be also brown or black colored. Mule is usually brown colored, or rarely grey or black. Thickness of its coat depends on the season. Mule has short, horse-like coat during the summer, and long, coarse, donkey-like coat during the winter.


Unlike the spine of mule and horse, spine of donkey lacks fifth lumbar vertebra.


Donkey produces characteristic hee-haw noise, while mule produces sound that is a mix of horse's whinnying and donkey's heehawing.

Physical Properties and Economic Value

Donkey is adapted to tough, desert conditions, where it is often used for transportation of supplies and humans and in agricultural practice (for pulling plows and carts). In some areas, donkey is also used to guard livestock (especially sheep) and as a tourist attraction (riding a donkey is very popular among children). Mule is more superior than donkey thanks to its large size, great stamina and agility inherited from its mother (horse). It is more patient, less stubborn and less aggressive than donkey. Mule is also more intelligent and able to jump (donkey cannot jump) and run much faster compared to donkey. Just like donkey, mule also tolerates warm weather and lack of water and it requires three times less food than a horse of the same size. That's why mule is often used for transportation of heavy load in hardly accessible terrains and for plowing of the fields of cotton and tobacco.


Donkey can survive 30 to 50 years in the captivity (when properly cared), while mule has slightly shorter lifespan (up to 40 years).

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