J.C. Mattingly: A Socratic Rancher 7-9-12
July 9, 2012
After talking with people who know horses, donkeys and mules, I come away with the strong impression that stallions generally do not mate with jennys. In some cases, stallions don’t even recognize jennys as being of the same species.
Jacks, however, mate willingly with mares. Thus, most mules are a cross between a jack and a mare.
Perhaps stallions are more discriminating.
Or again, perhaps stallions are so grand and powerful that they become oblivious to all but the obvious. When we gaze upon the countenance of a stallion, we see a mighty quadruped who might look down upon a jenny as some sort of long-eared rodent. Even if a given stallion happened to be of a more generous disposition, it is understandable that he could judge a jenny to be a creature of a substantially different phenotype.
A typical jack, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be bothered by the obvious difference between his constitution and that of a mare, such as her short ears, which cause her to be severely flat-headed. Nor do jacks seem to notice the extra chestnuts on her hind legs, and jacks definitely are not intimidated by the excessive hair adorning the mare’s tail. In short, the jack sees a mare as a suitable candidate for enlarging his gene pool.
My friend, whom I’ll call Fred, told me a story that confirms the biological exuberance of the jack. Fred and his wife owned a jack and a jenny, Bucky and Blossom respectively, and kept them in a rented pasture on the outskirts of town. Blossom did not let Bucky mate with her, giving him some pretty good wholloping over the years on those occasions when he tried. Bucky was often driven to wander in search of a way to deal with this rejection, and sometimes made it close to town.
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On one such occasion, Bucky made it to the commercial strip outside of town where all the motels and fast food places were located. One of the motels had a life-size fiberglass replica of a white stallion, raised up dramatically on his hind legs, his mane flying back with distinction.
It’s unclear whether Bucky was actually fooled by the fiberglass stallion, or if he was simply practicing. Or again, it may be that he was making a profound statement of frustration for Blossom’s benefit. Whatever the root cause, Bucky had the white stallion in a mating grasp and was honking melodiously when the motel manager saw him, and called the sheriff.
Bucky was finally apprehended and returned to the pasture with Blossom, but not without some difficulty, and his determination led to a few speculations as to what a theoretical mating between a jack and a fiberglass stallion might produce.
One of spectator suggested, “It would be a half-glass horse? Right?”
“Or half a horse’s glass?” wondered the other. “No, it would have to be a half glass ass.”
“Half full or half empty?”
“That would depend on whether it was born male or female.”