Days Gone By - stories from the past

MONDAY MUSINGS: Mules were valuable to many Alabama farmers – here is why


(From and old newspaper abstract)

  • Mules, on a general average, live more than twice as long as horses. They are fit for service from three years old to thirty. At twelve, a horse has seen his best days and is going downhill, but a mule at that age has scarcely risen out of his colthood and goes on improving till he is twenty. Instances are recorded, of mules living sixty Or seventy years, but these are exceptions. The general rule is that they average thirty.

mule-hale-county-alabama-library-of-congressMule Hale County, Alabama summer 1936 by Walker Evans (Library of Congress)

  • Mules are never exposed to diseases as horses are. I have spent considerable time in studying the diseases of horses, from ring-bone up to poll evil. But who ever heard of a ring-boned, spavined, wind-broken mule? Immense sums of money are annually lost in the premature death of high-spirited horses by accident and disease. The omnibus lines in the city of New York have not been able to sustain their losses, and are beginning to use mules, as less liable by far even to accident as well as disease. This results from the next consideration, which is that—
  • Mules have organs of vision and hearing far superior to those of the horse. Hence they seldom sheer, and frighten, and run off. A horse frightens because he imagines he sees something frightful, but a mule, having superior discernment, both by the eye and ear, understands everything he meets, and therefore is safe. For the same reason, he is surer-footed, and hence more valuable in mountainous regions and on dangerous roads. I doubt whether on the Alpine paths a mule ever made a misstep. He may have been deceived in the firmness of the spot where he set his foot, but not in the propriety of the choice all appearances considered.

mule-auctioneers-montgomery-alabama-apr-1939-marion-post-wolcott-library-of-congressMule auctioneers. Montgomery, Alabama April 1939 by Marion Post Wolcott (Library of Congress)

  • The mule is much more hardy than the horse. A pair of these animals, owned hy a neighbor of mine, although small in size, will plow more land in one week than four horses. In light harness or under the saddle, in hauling iron ore or on the turnpike before a Conestoga wagon, one mule in a life time will kill seven horses. Their faculty of endurance is almost incredible.
  • Another very important fact is, that in the matter of food, a mule will live and thrive on less than one-half it takes to keep a horse. The horses of England, at this present time, are consuming grain which would save the lives of thousands of British subjects. A particular friend of mine, who has returned from a visit to Ireland, informed me a few days ago that, in the country of Antrim alone there were eight poor houses, containing from eight to nine hundred paupers each. Were the nobility disposed to substitute mules for horses, the grave might be cheated out of thousands of victims who starve to death for want of the grain that horses consume. In our country, however, the saving of grain is no object. In a national point of view, the agricultural interest is so great that the greater the demand for grain of all kinds the better for the farmer. But yet individual farmers, who are in debt and whose land is not improved, would find it profitable, in the course often years, to have the labor of full team and save one-half and more of the food necessary to keep it up as might be the case in substituting mules for horses.

ALABAMA FOOTPRINTS Statehood: Lost & Forgotten Stories (Volume 6) presents the times and conditions they faced in lost & forgotten stories which include:

  • Who Controlled And Organized The New State of Alabama?
  • Tuscaloosa Had Three Other Names
  • Chandelier Falls & Capitol Burns
  • Alabama Throws Parties For General LaFayette
  • Francis Scott Key Was Sent to Alabama To Solve Problems

About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. Jeff Mohon

    I admire the mule. In fact, I own two. Here in Walker County we have paid homage to the mule by erecting statues of him all across the county for his role in helping establish the area through his role in farming, logging, and mining.

  2. Mike McRae

    Awesome I love history. I now have this website on my favorites. Thanks Angela

  3. Frog Price

    My grandfather was a West Georgia mule trader.

  4. My family once owned a mule named Nell, she was very tall and three of use could ride her. We had to stand on the end of the wagon just to climb onto her back. Nell was used to plow the 15 acre garden and to round up the dairy cattle. We had two horses for rounding up the herd, but preferred Nell, with her wide back and more ‘even-trot’…. fun times I miss quite often…But ain’t it grand to have all our memories.

  5. Cindy Branum Blinn

    I have a very old picture of my papa, when he was 20, next to a mule. Taken about 1915

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