When two animals of the same kind mate, they produce a crossbred baby. Example: If a Hereford cow (red with a white face) mates with an Angus bull (all black), the crossbred calf may be black with a white face.
A hybrid is the offspring of similar kinds of animals. Mules were used like draft horses in the 1930s. A mule is the hybrid offspring of a male donkey (jackass) and a female horse (mare). A hinny is the offspring of a female donkey (jenny) and a male horse (stallion). Although they cannot usually have babies, mules are strong, sure-footed, and smart. Farmers say that compared to horses, mules are healthier, eat less, can endure more extreme temperatures, and will live and work longer.
Clifford Peterson says he had mules rather than horses. "Mules are like a donkey," he says. "Sometimes they get ornery. I can remember every time we headed towards the house when we was picking corn, we couldn't make them slow down... especially if it was getting towards quitting time. They're pretty smart."
Carla Due learned how to handle mules and horses when she was about 10 years old in Denmark. When she arrived in Nebraska, her dad was still working on the railroad, so she was responsibile for plowing and planting. She understood the animals, but she'd never seen corn grow. "I said, 'I've never seen corn come up. I just hope it knows what it's doing because I don't.' "
Written by Claudia Reinhardt and Bill Ganzel, the Ganzel Group. First written and published in 2003.