Making mules the modern way
Brief by Central Staff
Livestock – July 2003 – Colorado Central Magazine
They’re not making mules the old-fashioned way any more, at least not at the University of Idaho in Moscow, where researchers announced in May that they had cloned a mule.
The foal, named “Idaho Gem,” was born on May 4, and is the first member of the horse family to be cloned.
Since mules are almost always sterile, cloning would be the only reliable means of reproduction. A mule results from breeding a jackass (Equus asinus) with a mare (Equus caballus), and mule fanciers say that provides the best of both species — a donkey’s head (and brain) on a horse’s big body.
Breed the other way — stallion and jenny — and you get a hinny. These are pretty rare, since nobody seems to want a critter with a horse’s brain and a donkey’s small body.
If cloning catches on, that’s one less job for jackasses, at least those used for breeding mules. We checked with Hal Walter, our columnist and burro-rancher, who observed that jacks still have an important job — providing aggravation and teaching humility to humans.
However, with cloning, an old saying might have to be revised. A cloned mule may not be “without pride of ancestry nor hope of posterity.”
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