So recently I’ve had the opportunity to consider another in the equine species – the mule. Or more specifically, the role of the muleteer. This was on account of the Equine Spirit by C S Purdy. It was followed up by reading Brown Sunrise of Sawdust Valley by Marguerite Henry which will be reviewed in the future.
For those who are unaware, a mule is a foal that results from a horse and a donkey being bred. More specifically, the female is a horse (mare) and the male is a donkey (jack).
Something that fascinates me is that a mule is infertile. You cannot breed two mules and gain a baby mule. This is because donkeys have an extra set of chromosomes to the horse and so the resulting mule ends up with one chromosome not being paired. Interesting!
Mules have a lot of appeal to those who own them and handle them. They can be quite large, depending on the horse influence. Mules are sturdy, surefooted and hard workers. They also keep well, unlike some breeds of horse that require a lot to stay in good condition.
Whilst reading Marguerite Henry’s novel about Brown Sunrise, reference was made to one of the gentlemen being a muleteer. I’m not sure I’ve read this word before! I assumed it related to the care of a mule, but I thought I’d do a little investigating. A muleteer can simply be described as “one who drives mules.”
A definition that I feel is a little more comprehensive details:
“A muleteer, or more informally a muleskinner is a person who transports goods using pack animals, especially mules. In South America, muleskinners transport coffee, maize (corn), cork, wheat and myriad other items. They remain common in the Paisa Region of Colombia. In California, muleteers work out of pack stations. In Europe, there are still muleteers in the south of Portugal and the southwest of Spain, in the cork producing area. Their role is now limited to transporting the cork with their mules, out of the Mediterranean oak forest to more accessible routes, where modern means of transport are available.”
Perhaps you have an interest in training and working with the equine species. But maybe donkeys and mules appeal to you more. Or the idea of working with pack horses in general! Being a muleteer could provide you with the chance to train, travel and get a lot of exercise!