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September 23, 2007

My Favorite Mule is a Hinny! - Part 3

By Amy K. McLean, Dr. Mel Yokoyama, and Dr. Sue Hengemuehle
Sowhatchet Mule Farm, Inc.
Madison, GA

Part III. My favorite hinny!

It is my belief that there are more hinnys in the mule world than we realize because we typically group hinnys and mules together at shows. I often wonder how many times hinnys are sold as mules and the buyer is not told in fear they will not buy the animal. We bought our first hinny a year or two ago and when purchasing the hinny, which we believed to be a mule, the seller told us before paying for him that the mule was a hinny and did we still want to buy him. The seller informed us who raised the hinny and that he was by a Rocky Mountain Saddle Horse and by a mammoth jenny. We still purchased him and he's been a very unique and wonderful hinny (see photos of James Dean). James Dean like several of the hinnys I have seen has a bald face. Of the few hinnys I have seen all have had some type of unusual star or markings that seem to be less common in mules.

Due to the fact that many people do not register their mules and animals change hands, and information is lost along the way, there are probably more hinnys around than we think. For example, twelve years ago I met a legendary mule trainer, who I consider to be one of my heroes, Walter Nunn, from Bryan, TX in Bishop, CA. He was riding a palomino mule, named LeMoan, that was fantastic on cattle and his friend Kathryn rode her in the reining and she was awesome! Twelve years later, I found out that one of my favorite mules, LeMoan, is not a mule! Until recent correspondence with Dr. Tex Taylor, who clued me in on LeMoan being a hinny, I had always thought LeMoan was a mule and I was bound to find out for sure!

Well, I didn't exactly know how to get in touch with Walter so through a friend (Tina Varga) I got Kathryn Bradley’s email. Kathryn is a great friend and traveling companion of Walter’s and I knew she would know for sure if LeMoan was a hinny and how to get in touch with Walter. I got the answers to both! Walter Nunn impressed me again, with the fact he has email and emails, not to mention he was also inducted into the Hall of Fame this year at Bishop Mule Days (2007)! He emailed me back and said "yes, LeMoan is definitely a hinny." For years I thought my favorite mule was a mule but nope she's a hinny! I studied the photos that Kathryn had sent me to see if I could tell any physical differences when comparing her to a mule and I could not. After finding out that LeMoan was a hinny I was curious to know more from Walter about raising and training hinnys. When I asked Walter about how many times he had to cover his jenny with the stallion, he replied, "I turned the stud in with the jenny and her bred her once or twice." It was a normal breeding schedule, the stallion was turned in with the jenny and she was bred once or twice and then she had a hinny! Unfortunately, Walter has not had any more hinnys and he has tried to rebreed LeMoan's dam but no luck. I was also interested in knowing if the gestation length is similar to that of a mare carrying a mule. A lot of our mares typically carry the mule foals 11 ½ months but I wondered if it would be the same or different if the jenny (since the donkey's gestation length is twelve months compared to the mare's being eleven months) was the mom. I did ask Walter but he couldn't remember.

I was also curious to know from Walter if training a hinny is similar to training a mule or more like a donkey. The hinny we own, James Dean, is super gentle but he was already broke when we got him so I missed out in terms of witnessing how he was started and how he reacted. Walter responded in his email, "LeMoan had a few donkey moments of just sulking up and not going forward and then she got over it." I think her multiple world championships in roping, cow working, cutting, and team penning speak for themselves! LeMoan and Walter Nunn are quite famous and are known from coast to coast for their many accomplishments in those events but I wonder what people will say when they find out like me that their favorite mule is a Hinny! Will this make more people want a hinny and then attempt to breed for hinnys?

I would like to know how many other mules are not mules but hinnys that are showing. I do know another hinny that has done quite well in the show ring. She's a beautiful, true tobiano, sorrel and white, 16 plus hand, hinny owned by Kick Ass Mules in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. This hinny has been shown throughout the country by Sandy Dove and she too has done outstanding. This hinny will catch your eye if you have never seen her! I have tried to contact Sandy to get some photos but I have not been able to do so. I do know that they have tried to raise more but I believe the hinny’s sire that was a paint horse passed away. This hinny like LeMoan is quite special and well trained. I was always impressed with this hinny because to me she was extremely "horsy" she moved more like a horse, more forward and correct, she seemed to have less resistance and more balance as she tracked.

If you have any experience raising hinnys please contact me because I would like to learn more about them. I truly believe there are more hinnys at our shows than we realize and it would be interesting to learn more about the challenges reproductively in trying to produce them, train them, etc. Dr. David Pugh did mention that when treating hinnys with sedatives that it's recommended to administer a dose more similar to what you would give a donkey and the dosage of a sedative for a mule should be administered closer to that of a horse. Again, these suggestions from a veterinarian are facts that need to be known and practiced by all that own these animals. These suggestions also raise more questions in my mind such as feeding hinnys vs. mules vs. donkeys. If administering medications is different for each hybrid because their body's metabolism is different these are topics that should be researched more. Our manmade hybrids continue to intrigue us all and there is still so much to learn from them! I look forward to your comments and feedback about hinnys; you can email me at amule@bellsouth.net or mcleana5@msu.edu, or send information to Amy McLean 1284 Anthony Hall, Animal Science Department, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48825. I will also be at the following shows this summer, Bishop Mule Days, Bishop, California and The Great Celebration Mule and Donkey Show, Shelbyville, TN look forward to hearing from y'all!


Ball, B.A., Dobrinkski, I., Fagnan, M.S., Thomas, P.G. 1997. Distribution of glycoconjugates in the uterine tube (oviduct) of horses. Am. J. Res. 58, 816-822.

Breazeale, K.R., and Brady, H.A. 2002. Biochemical properties and localization of zonadhesin in equine spermatozoa. Thero. J6663: 1-4.

DeMott, R.P, Lefebvre, R., and Suarez, S.S. 1995. Carbohydrates mediate the adherence of hamster sperm to oviductal epithelium. Bio. Reprod. 52, 1395-1403.

Dobrinski, I., Ignotz, G.G., Thomas, P.G., and Ball, B.A. 1996. Role of carbohydrates in the attachment of equine spermatozoa to uterine tubal (oviduct) epithelial cells in vitro. Am J Vet Res. Nov. 57 (11): 1635-9.

Sabeur, K. and Ball, BA. 2006. Characterization of galactose-binding proteins in equine testis and spermatozoa. Anim. Reprod. Sci. 2006, doi: 10.1016/j.anireprosic.2006.08.028.

Trujillo, J.M., Susumu, O., Jardie, J.H., and Atkins, N.B. Spermatogensis in a male hinny histological and cytological studies. Jrnl Heredity, 79-84.

Yanagimachi, R. 1994. Fertility of mammalian spermatozoa: its development and relativity. Zygote 2, 371-372.

Personal contacts and interviews:
Dr. Dalen Agnew, Michigan State University, Diagnostic Center for Population and Animal Health
Ms. Angela Maschari-Busta, Michigan State University, Animal Science Department
Dr. David Pugh, Auburn University and Fort Dodge Animal Health
Dr. Tex Taylor, Texas A&M University

Kathryn Bradley, Bryan, TX
Sandy Dove, Kick Ass Mules, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico
Walter Nunn, Bryan, TX
Leah Patton, American Donkey and Mule Society
Sharon Windsor, Turning Point Donkey Rescue, Dansville, MI

Posted by Guest Contributor at 03:30 PM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2007

My Favorite Mule is a Hinny! - Part 2

By Amy K. McLean, Dr. Mel Yokoyama, and Dr. Sue Hengemuehle
Sowhatchet Mule Farm, Inc.
Madison, GA

Part II. Are hinnys different than mules?


The preliminary report indicated the foal was stressed and the lungs were bright red, there was a possibility the foal had passed away from equine herpes virus infection or septicemia. There was some evidence that the foal was stressed and possibly the jenny had an intrauterine infection. Curly, the jenny was later cultured and was cultured clean (no infection was found). One finding in the preliminary report which was interesting was a tubular structure attached to the broad ligament. This structure created a lot of conversation among many professionals in regards to what it was and was the foal possibly a hermaphrodite. The final necropsy report showed the additional tubular structure to be an enlarged blood vessel that is larger in size when compared to a horse. It’s possible that the larger blood vessel is normal in desert creatures like donkeys, mules, and hinnys. The report indicated that the foal most likely died from lack of nutrition and not due to an abnormal organ. Another very interesting event associated with the foal was the results of the karotyping.


This was a procedure I had not requested because after years of foaling out mares and jennys, I felt my experience was sufficient to identify the foal as being a hinny and never once did I think otherwise. The same was true for Sharon Windsor in both of our minds the foal was not a donkey but a hinny. When the foal was submitted to necropsy blood was taken from the foal to genetically identify the species. For whatever reason the blood was not properly stored in the correct medium to verify its genetic make-up but some how and this is where the necropsy results become some what fuzzy to me, a sample of blood or cells were taken and used to karotype the foal. According to Dr. Agnew, the pathologist in charge, when karotyping animals typically ten blood samples are taken for karotyping and the results are 75% accurate, however, the blood was not preserved properly but somehow the karotyping was still done by an expert in pediatrics genetics.


Only 62 chromosomes were counted from this obscure sample indicating the foal was not a hinny but actually a donkey. I’m still not convinced the foal was a donkey due to its physical appearance and more blood samples from known hinnys, mules, and donkeys are in the process of being taken and submitted for karotyping. Also, when reviewing the photos and slides of the foal I had the chance to look at the ovarian tissue of this animal. There was no follicular activity meaning no follicles were present and follicular growth was occurring to produce eggs (ovums) for reproduction. However, typically sterile animals do not reproduce so is this unusual in a hinny or mule to lack follicles? Again, some mules and hinnys in China and Africa (Morocco, Ethiopia, and Kenya) have reported mules and hinnys that have produced foals but would more mules and hinnys have foals if they were bred? When compared to horse foals (fillies) multiple follicular growth could be identified in the tissue. This leads me to believe the animal along with its phenotypical characteristics was a hinny. A sterile animal such as a hinny or mule can produce ovums and sperm cells but not all of them due to complications with genes pairing with one another. Although, maybe this is typical in a jenny foal to lack follicular growth in her ovarian tissue, or maybe this is typical of mule and hinnys, we don’t know because there were no other samples to compare the tissue to. Also, this brings up the question about how many hinnys have been karotyped to compare to and some of the journal articles I have read and reviewed just suggested that typically a mule or hinny has 63 but who really knows because how many mules and hinnys have been tested? So, you can be the judge look at the photos and make up your own mind. Hinny or donkey foal?

Donkeys have 31 pairs of chromosomes or 62 in total. Typically, mules and hinnys have 63 chromosomes, they inherit 31 chromosomes from the donkey (E. asinus) and 32 from the horse (E. caballus) (Trujillo). After reading several scientific articles I am not 100% convinced that all hybrids contain 63 chromosomes and maybe more research needs to be done. Most of the reports I have read in regards to hinnys and mules are the rare cases where both have produced offspring. Even more interesting one article found that an intact male hinny contained both horse and donkey sperm cells in regards to chromosome counts (i.e. some contained 62 chromosomes and others contained 64 but none contained 63 chromosomes) (Trujillo). The mystery continues!

Posted by Guest Contributor at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)