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Difference between Donkey and Mule

Donkey and mule both are hoofed mammals. Although they look similar and belong to the same horse family, they are different animals. They differ from each other in terms of their body shape, size, appearance and behaviour. Let us see how a donkey differs from a mule!


Donkeys, which are also known as burros, are descended from the African wild ass. They are domesticated more than 5000 years ago. There are around 190 breeds of donkey all over the world. They have 62 chromosomes and are able to reproduce normally. The characteristic feature of donkeys is their long ears. In addition to this, they have a dorsal stripe along the back, a dark stripe across the shoulders, a short mane, thick head, and a coarse tail that resemble a cow's tail.

Donkeys produce characteristic hee-haw sound. They are shorter than mules and mostly used for transporting people and goods. They may be stubborn and may get irritated or show impatience if the load is too heavy to carry but are smart enough to protect themselves and their passengers from danger. Their lifespan is 30-50 years.


A mule is a hybrid animal. It is produced by mating a male donkey with a female horse, whereas, a "hinny" is produced by mating a male horse with a female donkey. Mules have characteristics of both the parents but are not able to reproduce as they have 63 chromosomes, due to this mismatch they cannot produce haploid cells, which have half the number of chromosomes, required for sexual reproduction. So they are sterile and you cannot breed a mule to produce a mule. In rare cases, a female mule has been able to produce offspring.

Mules share more physical characteristics with horses than donkeys such as similar body shape, ear shape, tail and teeth. They can live upto 30 to 40 years. They also perform better than donkeys as they remain calm even if the load is too heavy to carry. It is believed that mules are more intelligent than donkeys. The sound produced by mules is a mix of horse's whinnying and donkey's heehawing. Its short neck, thick head, thin limbs, short mane and thin limbs make it look like a donkey. However, its height, neck shape, coat and teeth help differentiate it from donkeys.

Based on the above information, some of the key differences between a donkey and mule are as follows:

Donkey Mule
It is not a hybrid animal. It is a hybrid animal, produced by the mating of a male donkey with a female horse.
It has 62 chromosomes and is able to reproduce. It has 63 chromosomes and is not able to reproduce.
It has long ears that do not resemble the ears of a horse. It has shorter ears than donkeys and their shape resembles the ears of a horse.
It shares a very less physical characteristic with horses. It shares a more physical characteristic with horses than donkeys.
Its tail is coarse that resembles the tail of a cow. Its tail resembles the tail of a horse.
It is shorter than a mule. It is taller and larger than a donkey.
It has less stamina than a mule. It has more stamina than a donkey.
It produces a hee-haw noise. It produces a sound that is a mix of donkey's hee-haw and horse's whinnying.
It gets impatient if the load is too heavy to carry. It can withstand heavy load without getting impatient.
It cannot jump from the standing position. It can jump few feet in the air from the standing position.
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