Difference Between Donkey and Mule

Donkey vs Mule | Features, Characteristics, Lifespan | Jenny, Jack

It is interesting to discuss the donkey and mule because these two are very much related to each other and also differ with some important characters. There are about 44 million donkeys and mules in the world and attracted by many, as they being recreational and working animals. They both are Equid mammals, meaning horse-like. These herbivorous grazers are much alike in appearance with odd number of toes in each foot. Therefore, they are called odd-toed ungulates or perissodactyles. The field of Genetics in Biology is of greater importance when it comes to donkeys and mules. Which is because, the mule is a result of the mixing of genes within two of the Equid species. The interest of looking at donkey and mule is therefore higher.


Donkey aka ass, are vary in their size according to the breed. The height at the withers (ridge between the shoulders) varies between 80 and 160 centimetres and the weight could be between 100 and 400 kilograms for an adult. Donkeys live alone and not in herds in the wild. They grunt loudly (known as Braying) to communicate within each other. The female of a donkey is known as Jenny, and the male is called Jack. The donkeys are long-lived animals with a lifespan of 30 – 50 years. Donkeys are family pets in many instances meanwhile they actively contribute to the mule industry.


When a male donkey and a female horse are sexually crossed, a mule is produced. Since the numbers of chromosomes are different in horses (64) and donkeys (62), the resulted hybrid mule gets 63 chromosomes. Since those genes from mother and father are not from the same species, they are not compatible. As a result the mules are not capable of producing their own offsprings or in other words, they won’t become parents. The colour, shape, and weight vary in mules. Sometimes a mule’s weight can be as small as 20 kilograms while some weigh up to 500 kilograms. The voice of mules is a combination of both horse and donkey, sounding with a whinny start and a hee-haw ending. The mule is considered as more intelligent than donkeys, and long lived than a horse. They are more important in transportation of cargo especially in remote and roadless areas (wilderness), and also the mules have been used in the war in Afghanistan by the US military.

Donkey vs Mule

These two very much related animals are similar mostly in their appearances and also to uses to man. Both of them have been working animals, but wild donkeys are not working animals for humans. Neither donkeys nor mules are ruminants like deer and cattle. The difference between the sounds of donkeys and mules is noticeable. Also the size variation of mules is very higher and the lifespan is low whereas in donkeys, the lifespan is higher but the size variations are comparatively lower. Both mules and donkeys have been friends with humans by being working partners. Donkeys have been discovered in Egyptian paintings of 1200s BC and also in Ancient Greek rhytons those date back to 440 BC, depicting the long affiliation of man and donkeys.