From the Archives - Picking a Proper Mule
From its inception through the Vietnam War the U.S. Army frequently found itself making use of that bastard offspring of the mare and jackass known as the mule. An ugly, stubborn beast, yet endowed with remarkable stamina, adaptability, and courage, mules served not only as draft and pack animals, hauling supplies and ammunition, but also as riding animals
Picking mules suitable for military service was a fine art, embodied in the Army last standard handbook on the subject, issued in 1917, Manual of Pack Transportation, by H.W. Daly, who had for many years been the chief packmaster of the U.S. Army, form which this excerpt is taken.
Specifications for Pack and Riding Mules
The mule must be sound in body and limbs, of blocky build, of kind and gentle disposition, with free and springy action at the walk or trot, and to conform to the following description:
The Pack mule must be in fair condition, from 4 to 6 years old; weight, depending upon height to be as follows:
Pack Mules should weigh from 95o to 1,025 pounds, and be from 14. 1 hands to 15 hands high.
Head of medium size, well formed, intelligent looking, broad between the eyes; eyes clear, large and full; ears long and flexible; teeth and tongue free of blemishes; muzzle well rounded and firm.
Neck, stocky, broad and full at crest, and inclined to arch.
Wither, low and broad; indicating strength in shoulders.
Chest, low and broad, with division well defined, holding the fore legs well apart, showing good lung power.
Knees, wide in front and free of blemishes.
Back, short and straight, indicating strength in back over region of the kidneys.
Barrel, deep and large, indicating a good feeder-not hard to please in either food or water-a most essential requisite in the selection of pack mules.
Hips, broad and well rounded.
Dock, low and stiff, offering resistance, showing endurance.
Hocks, standing well apart and strongly made, showing well developed buttocks.
Pasterns, muscled, short, and strongly shaped.
Hoofs, sound, broad, full, with frog well developed, elastic, and healthy.
Riding mules will conform to the above conditions, with the exception, they must be deeper from point of withers to brisket.