Donkey vs Mule

Donkey vs Mule What's the difference?

A mule is a hybrid animal that is a cross between a male donkey and female horse, while a donkey is its own species. Mules are stronger and have longer ears than donkeys, while donkeys have a cross on their backs and cow-like tails. 

Donkeys and mules have similar appearances, so it’s easy to mistake them for the same animal. Donkeys belong to the horse family Equidae, whereas a mule is a hybrid offspring of a male donkey and female horse.

Donkey Vs Mule: Key Differences

There are lots of similarities between a mule and a donkey. Still, both possess some unique characteristics that set them apart. Did you find this guide on these two hoofed mammals informative? Or do you still have some confusion? Let us know in the comments!

Donkey vs Mule
The donkey is a domesticated animal that belongs to the horse family Equidae Definition  A mule is a hybrid animal and an offspring of a female horse and a male donkey
36 to 48 inches at the shoulder  Size  48 to 68 inches at the shoulder
A short thick head, long ears, short mane, thin legs, narrow hooves Physical features  A short thick head, long ears, short mane, thin legs, wider hooves
White, black, gray to stable  Body color Black, white, gray to stable, and white
Long cow-like tail with a tuft of hair at the end  Tail shape Long hairs from tail to bone similar to horsetail
Dark stripes on the head, back, and shoulders form a cross Body patterns/ stripes  No cross
Bray  Sound A mix of horse’s whinny and donkey’s bray sound
62 Number of Chromosomes  63
Fertile  Reproductive ability  Sterile 
30 to 50 years  Lifespan  30 to 40 years
Jenny/ Jennet  Female names  Molly 
Naturally, herd animals prefer to live together in a group  Behavior  Also, naturally, herd animals and adjust well in a group 

Difference Between Donkey and Mule


The mule is a hybrid animal, while the donkey is not. As also mentioned, mules are a cross between a male donkey and a female horse. But mules have similar physical characteristics to donkeys because of the same genes. Both donkeys and mules also belong to the same horse family called Equidae.

See Also:  Difference Between Alpaca and Llama

Physical Characteristics

The physical characteristics of donkeys and mules are similar. They both have short manes, short thick heads, thin legs, and narrow hooves.

Mules, however, are stronger and taller than donkeys because they have the genes of both horses and donkeys. Mules also have longer ears than donkeys.

A donkey’s tail is similar to a cow’s or zebra’s. It’s thin and extended with a tuft of hair at the end. But mules have a long flowy tail that they inherit from their horse mother. The horse-like tail has long, flowy, and very coarse hair that grows from the dock to the tailbone.

Donkey vs mule: Donkey standing outside in a desert.
Donkeys are smaller and have shorter ears than mules.


There isn’t a huge difference between the lifespan of donkeys and mules. Donkeys live for 27 to 40 years, and mules live for 30 to 40 years. But some mules live up to 50 years, depending on the environment and health factors.


Donkeys, the oldest known pack animals, are known for their stubbornness. This has come from their sense of self-preservation. It isn’t easy to forcefully make a donkey do things they don’t want to. Similarly, they don’t quickly get frightened.

But mules are not as stubborn as their male donkey parent. However, they are more intelligent, very aware of the danger, and more curious.


Donkeys have grey, dark brown, black, or light-faced roan. Also, they have a crosswise stripe on the shoulders and a dark stripe from the mane to the tail.

Mules usually have a brown or bay coat. But there are other lesser found varieties like white, dun, palomino, buckskin, and roans (a combination of red and blue).

See Also:  Difference Between Bunny and Rabbit


A grown-up mule’s body weight is around 800 to 1000lbs, but the babies or the mini mules weigh about 50lbs. Donkeys weigh about 400 to 1300 pounds. In a nutshell, donkeys are heavier than mules.


Donkeys don’t prefer to live alone. They are always happy in the herd. Interestingly, the herd chooses the most vital donkey among all as its leader, even if it is domesticated.

Mules also prefer to live in herds. They are great as guard animals as they are very strong and have a lot of strength. Using mules, you can guard your other farm animals, livestock, etc.


Donkeys prefer to eat wheat, barley straw, and other broad-leaved weeds. Mules prefer the same diet, but they require less food than donkeys. However, mules are stronger than donkeys and have more strength and stamina, making them resilient animals.

You should avoid feeding bread, more protein-based food, processed food, or puffed rice to donkeys and mules as these foods may make them sick.

Mule is standing in an open grassland.
This mule is wild and lives on a prairie in South Dakota.


Donkeys are fertile and have reproductive capacity. They can either reproduce themselves or with horses. Also, they have 62 chromosomes, and horses have 64, so they both fall into the category of fertile animals.

Mules are sterile because they are hybrid animals. They have only 63 chromosomes, so they lack haploid cells required for reproduction. Farm owners generally castrate the male mules to eliminate their interest in females. Female mules are also sterile but might produce offspring in rare cases. 


Mules have the horse’s whinny and grunting sound of bray, and they end with the donkey’s hee-haw. Donkeys only make the hee-haw sound.


Donkeys are intelligent and have a very sharp memory. They can remember places and other donkeys they have lived with for as long as 25 years. Mules are also intelligent animals and are, in fact, more intelligent than donkeys. Their memory is also good. These animals can quickly identify other animals they have lived with or the places they have been to.


Vanessa is passionate about written communication, especially after beginning her career as a middle school English teacher. She’s an experienced content marketer as well. Vanessa loves to analyze, compare, and contrast, which is why she writes for ContrastHub. Besides writing, Vanessa is a wife, mom, entrepreneur, spicy food enthusiast, comedy nerd and lifelong learner.

Recent Posts