What's the difference between a horse, a donkey and a mule?

Last updated at 05:59
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WATCH: Find out the difference between horses, donkeys and mules

It's a question for the ages - what is the difference between a horse, a mule and a donkey? And what is a pony, really?

We're here to give you a helping hoof!

Below are some of the mane differences you can spot between these four animals.

You'll neigh find a better explanation.

So what are the differences?

All you need to know is that animals like horses, donkeys and zebras are entirely separate species.

However, they have all evolved from the same family called equidae.

These species all belong to a sub-family of animals called equus.

Here are some clues to how you can tell the difference between horses, donkeys, mules and ponies!


Horse galloping with flowers in its mouthGetty Images
Horses are tall, fast and easier to train than other equines
  • Tall, fast and easier to train than other equines
  • Because of their speed and agility they have been used throughout history in times of war or in games like polo
  • They have thin coats, short ears and long manes and tails
  • They are a pack animal, preferring to travel in groups


Donkey chewing grassGetty Images
Donkeys tend to be intelligent, strong and more cautious than horses
  • Intelligent, strong and cautious
  • Donkeys are able to carry up to twice their own body weight, which means they are often used for manual labour - for example, pulling carts and carrying cargo
  • They are shorter than horses, have thicker coats, shorter tails and long ears
  • They are more independent than horses and harder to train


Mule in a fieldGetty Images
Mules have a donkey father and a horse mother
  • Mules are actually a very special mix - they have a donkey father and horse mother, and they often inherit the best qualities of both
  • For example, they can be faster than donkeys and more intelligent than horses
  • They can also live for a very long time
  • Mules born from a donkey mother and horse father are known as hinnys and tend not to be as strong as mules


Pony standing in a fieldGetty Images
Ponies are in fact horses but just a shorter variety
  • Ponies are in fact horses but just a shorter variety
  • A fully grown pony will be below 14.2 hands (1.44 metres) at the highest part of a horse's back known as the withers
  • There are exceptions to this rule, but this height is often used as a guide
  • Ponies are typically very strong and can be gentle - this is why many are used to help children learn to ride

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