miniature horse

What is a hinny?

by Kristin Berkery

Most people have heard of a mule, but do you know what a hinny is?

Pearlie Mae, a hinny foal sired by a miniature horse. Photo courtesy of the American Donkey and Mule Society

First, let’s review mules. A mule is the hybrid result of a donkey jack (stallion) bred to a horse mare. Male mules are sterile, so they are usually gelded (making them “johns”) to decrease their interest in female horses and donkeys. There are a few anecdotal cases of female mules (mollies) being fertile and able to produce foals when bred to a donkey or a horse, but for the most part mules are sterile.

donkey stallion + horse mare = mule

Why would someone want to produce a sterile hybrid foal? Due to hybrid vigor, mules tend to inherit the best characteristics of their parents. Donkeys are tougher than horses and well adapted to living in arid climates with sparse vegetation. It’s believed that their ears not only capture far-off sounds better, but they may also help cool the animal in hot weather. Donkeys are generally less prone to colic and can digest scrubby grasses much better than horses. From the horse side, mules get strength and courage. The result is an animal that tends to be smart, strong, tough, and sure-footed. Mules can be used for farm work, endurance racing, and as pack animals.

A hinny pictured with its donkey jenny dam in the background. Photo courtesy of the American Donkey and Mule Society

So what exactly is a hinny? A hinny is the result of breeding a horse stallion to a donkey mare (jenny). They tend to be smaller animals, probably because the donkey mother has a smaller womb than a horse. Some mule and hinny enthusiasts say hinnies have a more horse-like head with smaller ears and more horse-like manes and tails than mules have. But overall, hinnies are considered genetically identical to mules.

horse stallion + donkey mare = hinny

There are a few theories why hinnies are uncommon. One debatable reason is that donkey jennies are more selective in choosing their mates. But the most likely reason is that most mule breeders want a larger animal for riding or carrying heavy loads and hinnies just aren’t big enough for those tasks. Because of their smaller size, hinnies are often sired by Miniature Horses and kept as pets.

It’s possible to breed a larger hinny by using a Mammoth donkey jenny as the dam, but Mammoths are rarer and most breeders want to reserve Mammoth jennies for producing other Mammoths, not sterile hinnies.

To learn more about hinnies, mules, and donkeys, visit the American Donkey and Mule Society‘s website. More hinny photos

A Horse in the Apple Store?

There is a Horse in the Apple Store

Artist and designer Frank Chimero thought he entered the Twilight Zone when he saw a guide horse in his local Apple store.

 
Guide Horse Foundation

Photo courtesy of the Guide Horse Foundation

Amazingly, miniature horses really can serve as guide animals to the disabled. There are even legitimate reasons to have a guide horse over a guide dog:

  • For people who are allergic to dogs
  • For those who have a fear of dogs
  • If a longer-lived guide animal is desired
  • If someone is already familiar with handling horses
 

Less than 1% of the horses considered for the Guide Horse Foundation program are accepted. The first thing that occurred to me was, “Oh great, another reason to breed mini horses and overpopulate the breed.” But the good news is that the Guide Horse Foundation website says it relies on donations rather than encouraging horses to be bred for the program.

 
It turns out there may be more advantages to a guide horse over a guide dog: 

  • Horses have nearly 350-degree vision
  • Horses may be better accepted in public because guide dogs could be viewed as pets
  • Guide horses may have better endurance than guide dogs when walking long distances
  • Horses have a great memory for avoiding dangerous situations, which I would guess is related to the fact that they’re prey animals
 

One young woman in Michigan chose a guide horse over a dog because her Muslim family considers dogs unclean.

 

Apparently full-sized horses can also assist the disabled — a visually-impaired woman in Forth Worth, Texas, rides her Appaloosa through the Dairy Queen drive-thru and into the local Target store.

 

There is some opposition to the idea of using horses as guide animals. The main arguments are that horses have a fight-or-flight instinct that could put their owners in danger; guide horses are harder to transport and require a larger vehicle; they won’t be allowed in many public places; it’s harder for a horse to climb steps; and they require their owner to have a backyard to meet a horse’s needs for space and fresh air. Critics also question the Guide Horse Foundation’s experience with serving the blind and their criteria for matching guide horses to people.

 

To learn more about the guide horse program, visit the Guide Horse Foundation‘s site.

A guide horse and his owner getting ready to board a plane. Photo by DanDee Shots