Mules and Mule-Shoeing

The term mule in its ordinary acceptation is generally employed to designate the offspring of “cross” between the equine and asinine species.  Mules are of two kinds:  the mule proper, which is the hybrid product of a male ass with a mare; and the hinny, which is the offspring of a stallion and a female ass.  The mule proper is the more valuable of the two, and it is to its production the attention of breeders is directed.  Breeding of mules is difficult, owing to the antipathy of the equine species to the asinine.  Besides this, abortion readily occurs and more care must be taken during pregnancy in breeding mules than is necessary in breeding horses or asses.  The mule foal does not grow fast, nor is it as strong on its limbs as the horse foal.  It is of no use before it is four years old, because it is longer in reaching maturity; but it is useful for a longer period than the horse, often working until it is fifty years old, and will live till seventy-five.  The mule and the ass enjoy an extraordinary immunity from disease.  In the campaign in Egypt in 1882, the English horses suffered very extensively from malarious fever, but the mules were entirely exempt.  In our own late war the same conditions obtained.  Nevertheless those diseases which attack the asinine species, generally run their course with great rapidity.  Glanders, for example, often appears in the chronic form in the horse, while in the mule and ass this disease is most acute.

Mules are reared in North and South America, and the districts for breeding in the United States are Kentucky, Kansas and Missouri.

Mule-shoeThe foot of the mule is different from that of the horse.  In front it is round, but from the quarters back to the heels it is straight and perpendicular, having the shape of a contracted foot of a horse.  In shoeing care should be taken that the hoof is not allowed to grow out too long.  The heels should be pared down so that the frog is allowed to touch the ground.  Mules often go lame on account of the heels growing almost together, pressing against the navicular bone, and causing contraction and corns.  The shoes should be made in the shape as shown in Fig. 67, otherwise shoe as a horse.


Oxen seem to have been the first of the domesticated animals, and were undoubtedly one of the most important agents in the development of early history.  We find them mentioned in the oldest written records of the Hebrew and Hindu peoples, as well as figured on Egyptian monuments raised 2,000 years before the Christian era.  Remains of domesticated specimens have been found in the Swiss lake dwellings, together with stone implements and other records of Neolithic man.  In early communities an individual’s wealth was measured by the number of cattle he possessed.  Abraham, it is said, was rich in cattle.  Oxen for a long period formed, as they still do among Central African tribes, the favorite medium of exchange between individuals and nations.  After the introduction of Ox-shoe, right halfmetal money into ancient Greece, the former method of exchange was commemorated by stamping the image of an ox on the new money.  The same custom has left its impression on the different languages of Europe.  The English word “pecuniary” and the Swedish word “pekuniara” are derived from “pecus” – cattle.  The value the ancients attached to the ox is further shown by the sign of the Zodiac, in which a bull figures.  The bull, according to the Hindus, was the first animal created by the three divinities, who were directed by the Supreme Deity to furnish the earth with animated beings.  The ox also played an important part in Greek and Roman mythology.  The Hindus were not allowed to shed the blood of an ox.  The Egyptians could only do so in their religious sacrifices to their gods.  Hindus and Jews were both forbidden in their sacred writings to muzzle the ox while treading out the corn.  To kill an ox wantonly was regarded as a great crime, punishable with exile among the Romans.


Since the ox has become a burden-carrying animal it has been found necessary to shoe his feet, in order to protect them against a foot wear detrimental to his usefulness as well as health, and to give him a sure foothold on icy or slippery roads.  The ox being a less intelligent animal than the horse, must be shod in a different manner.  In shoeing, the ox must be put in a stall or rack, where he is firmly held in position from which there is no escape while the shoes are put on.

Ox Rack

The first thing to be done when the oxen is brought to the shop is the making of the shoes.  Ox-shoes are different from other shoes, being made in halves, one half on each claw, thus the claws will be free and independent of each other, as in the unshod condition.  Ox-shoes should be made of iron or soft steel 1 1/2” 5/16”, narrow at the toe and wide at the heel, as shown in Fig. 68, with six nail holes for No. 5 nails.  In preparing the foot for the shoe care should be taken not to rasp off too much from the foot, as the horn is thin, and if it is worn some it is still thinner.  Rasp just as little as possible in order to get a bearing for the shoe.  The shoe should also fit to the edges of the feet well.  In nailing the shoes care must be taken not to drive the nails into the quick.  The shell is thin, especially at the heels.  Do not draw the clinches hard, and remove the chip under the clinch with a narrow chisel.  Do not rasp after the shoe is nailed.

Shoeing Rack

In Fig. 69 a shoeing rack is represented that will be found effective in holding any ox while shoeing.  The size of the timber is 10 inches square, 12 feet long, posts 8 inches square, 8 feet high.  The blocks on the side are for the feet to rest on held by the clevis.  The illustration explains itself.

Heller Bros'. Hammers for Horseshoers

Heller Bros'. Hammers for Horseshoers

Heller Bros'.  Hammer for Horseshoers