difference between mule and donkey

Difference Between Mule and Donkey

Finding the difference between mule and donkey can put anyone in distress. After all, they do look identical!

We’ve all been confused about this at least once in our lives. Not only are they difficult to tell apart, but they also have a few different characteristics.

Today we will get to dissect not just one mule and donkey difference but quite a few. Everything, starting from their looks, eating habits to their habitat will be discussed here.

Although they both look like tiny horses, they are quite different from each other. So, let’s get started on their differences, shall we?


What Is a Donkey?


Donkeys, although they might look terribly similar to one, are not horses. They belong to the same family but are different.

You will instantly be able to tell the difference between the two by their appearance. Unlike horses, donkeys are much shorter and have a hardier look.

Also, donkeys have shorter hair all over their body and tail. Their long and erected ears are also quite distinctive. Most donkeys also have a dark stripe aligned with their back. But some donkeys do not possess this last feature.

Another key difference is that donkeys do not have a wither bump on their shoulders. Their backs are usually flat.


Role of Donkeys in Agriculture

Since biblical times, donkeys have been used by humans as transportation for both people and goods.

Donkeys can sometimes be quite hard to tame, but they are smart and can keep goods or people protected from danger while traveling.

You might have spotted donkeys in children’s storybooks playing a similar role. A specially made satchel is placed on their backs which is capable of carrying goods.

Not only can a donkey be trained to protect the goods, but it can also be trained to protect its human companion and itself from any kind of harm or danger.

Because donkeys are smaller in size, they are seldom used for the transportation of humans nowadays.


What Is a Mule?


Now we come to the mule. A mule is born to a male donkey and a female horse. When a male horse and a female donkey reproduce, the outcome is a “hinny”. Unfortunately, because of their odd numbers of chromosomes, they cannot reproduce. You always have to breed a donkey and a horse to get a mule.

Because they are a breed between the two, mules have the characteristics of both a horse and a donkey.

When it comes to appearance, mules have smaller ears than donkeys. But the ears are shaped like that of a horse. They might look quite similar to a donkey because of their thin limbs and short thick head, but there is a key difference that sets them apart. Mules are much taller than donkeys.

But because this animal is a cross between a horse and a donkey, it can take after any parent. So, all mules do not look the same; this can sometimes make it harder for us to identify a mule.


Benefits of Breeding Horses and Donkeys

This breed was created because of its beneficial features. Here are some of the main ones.

  • Mules perform a lot better than donkeys.
  • While donkeys can sometimes be impatient and unruly, a mule is calm and collected at all times. Therefore, the animal is much easier to train and tame.
  • They are also better at carrying heavyweight because they are partly horses; this is also why they have more stamina. It causes them less distress, and so they act out less.
  • Their capability to adjust keeps them balmy even if the weight is heavy for them to carry.
  • Mules require less maintenance and very rarely get sick.


Key Differences Between Mule and Donkey

donkey vs mule

Here are some key attributes that set a donkey and mule apart.


Donkeys can reproduce amongst themselves and with horses as well. Mules are created when they mate with horses.

But mules cannot reproduce. They have an odd number of chromosomes that forbid them from doing so. So, you always have to breed a horse and a donkey if you want a mule.

Mules have 63 chromosomes and are sterile.



Donkeys cannot jump or move too fast.

But mules are great jumpers and can walk for a long time without getting tired. They have great stamina!



A donkey has a tail that looks quite similar to that of a cow. On the other hand, a mule has a horse-like tail; they have flat spines and large donkey-like ears.

Mules are much taller than donkeys as well.



Mules can sound like donkeys at times and at times like horses. But a donkey always makes the same sound.


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Mule Vs. Donkey: The Comparison Table

Sometimes seeing things side by side in a comparison chart can help gain more perspective about a subject. So, to make things a little easier for you, here is a chart that summarizes and also compares the key differences between a donkey and a mule.

Parameter Donkey Mule
Appearance Short, with a flat back, tall erect ears, small hooves, short and coarse mane, and tail. Has attributes of both a horse and a donkey with ears and a tail that resembles that of a horse. They are usually taller with a flat back and a more delicate bone structure.
Number of Chromosomes 62 63
Maintenance High Low
Ability to Reproduce Yes No
Ability to Jump No Yes
Stamina Low High
Sound Makes only one sound Might sound like a horse or a donkey
Use For carrying goods within a short distance For carrying goods on distance depending on the quality of mule
Ease of Training  Harder to train and tame because of aggressive or irritable personality Easy to train and teach because of intelligence and calm personality
Strength and Intelligence Low High


Key Takeaways

  • Mules are a breed between horses and donkeys, and they possess qualities and features of both species.
  • Donkeys belong to the horse family but are different from them.
  • Mules cannot reproduce because they have an odd number of chromosomes.
  • Donkeys can be trained to protect themselves, their owners from danger.
  • Mules rarely ever get sick and are quite strong for their size.
  • Donkeys have long ears, short hooves, and a less waterproof and coarse mane.
  • Mules are taller and more intelligent than donkeys.


Final Words

By now, you must be able to differentiate between a mule vs donkey quite easily. To sum it up, we would say that the main mule and donkey difference is that a mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse while a donkey is just a part of the horse family.

Although it might not be easy to tell the difference between the two just by their looks, you may now be able to observe their behavior and tell which one is which.

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