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October 02, 2007

My Favorite Mule is a Hinny! - Part 4

Hello Hinny!
By Amy K. McLean
Sowhatchet Mule Farm, Inc. Madison, GA

After the first part of “My favorite mule is a hinny,” I was very pleased that readers contacted me with their experiences with hinnies. One of my key contacts was from a gentleman by the name of Mr. Larry Whatley of Lake Providence, Louisiana. He has successfully raised thirteen hinnies. About thirty years ago Mr. Whatley started riding mules on coon hunts. One day a friend of his let him borrow his hinny and after riding the hinny he decided he was going to try and raise another animal like it that was quite, easy going, and smooth to ride. He purchased a registered Spotted Saddle horse stallion and eight mammoth jennies. Four of his jennies after the first year conceived and four did not. He decided to sell the jennies that did not conceive when bred to the stallion and he selected four more jennies with hopes they too would conceive when breed to his stallion. The first year he was a lucky man some may say in terms of previous breeders reported difficulty in raising hinnies, and he had four hinny foals. Over the past ten years he has had thirteen and kept the jennies that would conceive and I believe this was a very important and key feature to Mr. Whatley’s breeding program. All of his jennies have been pasture breed and his stallion did begin breeding the jennies at the age of 2 and he had only serviced one mare before that time.

Some stallions have been reported as being scared of jennies and not wanting to breed them. Dianne Mangrum, of DM Bar Farms located in Alvin, Texas has also successfully raised a hinny by the name of “Opie” short for Optical Illusion. When Dianne first tried to breed her 13 hand grey jenny, Franny, to an overo American Paint Horse Stallion by the name of Something Illusion, he wanted nothing to do with his new long eared girlfriend. So, Dianne being an intelligent person decided she would trick the stallion into breeding her jenny and that’s just what she did! She collected urine from mares that were in estrus (heat) and stored the urine in a bottle with a spray nozzle in the refrigerator and took the special solution with her when Franny was in heat. She simply sprayed Franny with the mare urine and the stallion serviced the jenny. Fourteen months later Franny had a foal, “Opie.” I was interested in knowing how long the gestation period was for a jenny carrying a hinny and Dianne was the only breeder who was able to provide me with that information. At the time I thought Dianne was also the only hinny breeder who had hand bred her jenny but it turns out that Walter Nunn also hand breed his Doc Bar Quarter Horse stallion to his jenny. In addition, I spoke with Dr. Tex Taylor of Brammoth Farms in Bryan, Texas and he too has raised a hinny. Dr. Taylor actually Artifically Inseminated twelve jennies and had only 1 hinny foal. So, it’s possible that the first estimation about the conception rate being 20% when breeding for hinnies has been overestimated after speaking with the various breeders. I was also interested in learning more about the gestation length of jennys who were carrying hinny foals.

We have reported mares when bred to jacks having gestation periods of 11 and half months in-between the normal gestation length for a horse that typically foals around 11 months and a jenny that normally foals around 12 months. When I asked Dianne about the gestation length of her jenny Franny she made a good point that each dam is different but still there were some differences when she was carrying the hinny foal. Typically, Franny when carrying a donkey foal had gone 13 months and Franny went 14 months when in foal with Opie. There was some concern by Dianne about the foal developing to such a large size since Franny was a month longer than normal but Opie turned out just fine. Franny was not rebred on her foal heat but several months later Franny was reintroduced to the stallion. This time Franny only carried the fetus to about 90 days. Other people such as James and Lisa Ferguson of Equine by Design, in Sanger, Texas have also tried to raise hinnies and have had similar experiences. Lisa had mentioned that several of her jennies did conceive but they too lost their foals around 180 days. It maybe possible to supplement the jennies with hormones, such as a progestin commonly referred to as Regu-mate to prevent the jennies from absorbing or slipping the hinny foals in this critical time period. Although Regu-mate is costly but will supply the jenny with additional progestin (synthetic version of progesterone) and this should aide in keeping the jenny in foal since this hormone is responsible for signaling pregnant to the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain. In addition to breeding for hinnies I was also interested in speaking with additional people who own, ride, and train hinnies.

Several of Mr. Whatley’s clients contacted me after reading the first part of the hinny article and what they had to say was very interesting. Ron and Carolyn Gruby of Marianna, Arkansas purchased two hinny foals from Mr. Whatley and they had previously ridden mules. They both love their hinnies which are extremely, tall and beautiful animals and notice that they were more calm and docile than their mules. The Grubys enjoy trail riding and have taken their hinnies on some challenging but breathtaking trails in Colorado.

Another fallacy that has been strongly associated with hinnies is the fact they are small, long backed, not smooth to ride, and inferior to a mule especially in harsh or mountainous conditions. I even had an email from an outfitter out west who said he would never own a hinny because they did not have the heart or bottom like a mule and would not work in the mountains. I guess there are two sides to every story. Another client of Mr. Whatley’s, Jenny Westin of West Mar Mules in Montana, also sent me some information about her hinny, Dolly Pearl. Dolly Pearl has won many awards in mule shows and has been a wonderful trail animal! Jenny like the Grubys is very satisfied and happy with their hinnies. Their hinnies are by the same sire and have excellent conformation, dispositions, and way of moving (they are gaited) despite contrary belief. Westin did state that when she first called Larry she was looking for a mule and didn’t know if she would have called if she had known that Dolly Pearl was a hinny. Other fallacies that have been associated with hinnies are the fact they are hard to train. After speaking with Dianne Mangrum who later sold her hinny as a trail mount for lady in Wyoming, she remarked that “Opie” was very easy to do anything with and intelligent. He was a quiet, laid back individual that really enjoyed the trail more than the show ring.

It’s so important that we find what our animals are good at and then let them do their job. I also had the chance to speak with Eddie Moore of Williamsburg, KY who has started and trained all of Mr. Whatley’s hinnies. Eddie was very impressed with the conformation and disposition of Whatley’s hinnies. He also really liked the foot on the hinnies. Eddie believed that the hinnies’ hoof was more similar to that of the horse. Also, when he started riding the hinnies they all were extremely laid back and like other gaited mules some progressed more readily when he began to train them to gait than others but there was no difference in the hinnies’ movement compared to the movement and gait of mules. Another great example of a well trained hinny is LeMoan, owned and ridden by Walter Nunn. LeMoan has won many world championships and a great example of hinny that is nothing like the many fallacies that are associated with the animals.

Throughout my research and the information I have collected on hinnies I have continued to be intrigued with this amazing animal that has so many times been more misunderstood than the donkey or mule by our own industry as well as the rest of the equine community. So, I continued my search for hinny information in the form of scientific journal articles. In my search I have actually found several scientific journal articles about fertile hinnies. In the late 60’s a hinny stallion that was by a Shetland pony and a donkey jenny imported from Mexico was the center of attention for researchers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas. The hinny stallion was still intact and had not been gelded and even more surprisingly produced well-formed live spermatozoa. Typically the sperm cells would not reach maturation in a sterile animal meaning the cell would not be “well formed” nor would it be alive. Te most amazing fact about this study was the number of chromosomes found in the sperm cells of the hinny. The cell either contained horse chromosome numbers or donkey chromosome numbers but a combination of both and many argued the possibilities of why or how this could occur. In fact in the study a brand new, never used artificial vagina was being used to collect the hinnies semen (Trujillo et al., 1969).

Later studies with more advanced technology have indicated that some horse chromosomes are present but a lower amount in the cells. In addition in 1981 a mule in China had a foal named Dragon foal. The sire of the foal was a jack. Blood samples were taken from the foal as well as from mules, hinnies, and donkeys which were used as controls and the foal was karotyped and proven to be the foal of the mule (Rong et.al, 1985). Later on in 2006 the same researchers due to advancements in technology proved the dam of Dragon foal was not a mule but indeed a hinny! A hinny breed by a jack actually results in a foal with only 62 chromosomes and not 63 as expected and the foal is genetically a donkey. A mule bred to a stallion horse would actually produce genetically a horse with mule like characteristics (Zhao et. al., 2006). So, the hinny continues to intrigue us all! Most importantly I hope people now realize that hinnies are not all small, long backed, strange looking, internally deformed, hard to train hybrid crosses but instead they are just as talented, wonderful, athletic, gentle, docile and beautiful as our mules! My favorite mule, LeMoan is not a mule but a hinny, so have you too been fooled? Thank you for your interest over the past several months and I hope you now have a different perspective of hinnies and you never know your mule might be one! Happy Trails! For more information on mules, donkeys, and hinnies please do not hesitate to contact me at amule@bellsouth.net, or 706-296-8743.

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.

Rong, R., Yang, X., Cai, H., and Wei, J. 1985. Fertile Mule in China and her unusual foal. Jrnl. Royal Soc. of Med. 78:821-825.

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. 1969. Spermatogenesis 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.

Zhao, C.J., Qin, Y.H., Lee, X.H., and Wu, Ch. 2006. Molecular and cytogentictic paternity testing of a male offspring of a hinny. 123: 403-405.

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

Page Bishop, TX- Hinny photos

Kathryn Bradley, Bryan, TX- hinny photos and breeding information

Sandy Dove, Kick Ass Mules, Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Ron and Carolyn Gruby, AR, Hinny Owners, photos and information

Dianne Mangrum, TX, Hinny owner and breeder

Eddie Moore, Williamsburg, KY, Trains Hinnies

Walter Nunn, Bryan, TX- Hinny Owner (LeMoan), breeder, and trainer

Leah Patton, American Donkey and Mule Society

Larry Whatley, Lake Providence, LA- Hinny Breeder

Sharon Windsor, Turning Point Donkey Rescue, Dansville, MI

Posted by Guest Contributor at October 2, 2007 09:23 PM