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Are Mules Stubborn? 2023

It’s not uncommon to hear phrases like “stubborn as a mule” being used to describe a stubborn person. However, is there truth in this statement? Are mules stubborn?

Despite popular beliefs, mules are actually very docile. What is often mistaken as stubbornness by them is a strong sense of self-preservation. In other words, they are more cautious and aware of danger and will resist being overworked.

In general, mules are very intelligent and trainable. They learn faster than both horses and donkeys, especially at the early stages, and are less stubborn. In this article, we will look at stubbornness in mules, why they refuse to take instructions sometimes, and several other facts. 

are mules stubborn

Why are mules stubborn?

The idea that mules are stubborn is inaccurate. Most people who think this way have probably been outsmarted by one in the past. 

By nature, mules have a very strong sense of self-preservation. This means that they cannot be compelled to do something that can potentially harm them. Unlike horses, they are smart enough to stop and think things through before deciding what to do. So, while you can command a horse to jump off a climb, you will likely not get the same response from a mule. This is because a mule thinks for himself and if he senses danger with such a move, he will likely not obey. 

From the illustration above, it can be seen that mules are not inherently stubborn but will always access a situation before making a move. The same thing happens when you overwork or overuse them; they may slow down or stop completely. 

This is why you should never give a mule a stupid command. Because, if you do that consistently, the mule may end up becoming defiant and disobedient. 

Are mules more stubborn than horses?

Mules have a reputation for being hard to manage but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are more stubborn than horses. Sometimes, the problem is with the handler. If you don’t understand how smart they are, you may keep making the same mistakes and expect a different outcome.

Putting up resistance

A horse may allow behaviors from humans that are not in its best interest, but not so with a mule. You cannot simply coerce or force a mule into behaving how you want. It will resist your actions if it doesn’t feel good or thinks you’re not making sense. Again, this can be attributed to their higher intelligence and a stronger sense of self-preservation.

So, while you may be able to entice a horse to gallop over a cliff, you can’t do that with a mule.

Commitment to survival

The strong commitment of mules to survival is quite interesting when you consider the fact that they are sterile. Unlike horses, they don’t leave any legacy. This is why they are more careful and will avoid any risky behavior that can cut their life short. 

Are mules harder to train than horses?

When it comes to trainability, horses score highest among equines. This means they are generally easier to train than mules and zebras.   

Mules learn faster than horses, so it’s very easy for them to develop bad habits in their ground manners if not properly instructed. So, using the same procedure for training a horse on them may not work. 

Unlike horses, mules do not appreciate repetition. So, if you want to work with them, you have to keep each session purposeful. Once you get the correct response, move on to the next thing. If you continue asking the same thing, the mule will eventually refuse and by then you would have taught it how to refuse you.

A horse, on the other hand, will allow any behavior from you even when it might cause harm. 

Does this mean mules are difficult to train? Not at all. You just have to take things slow and be more logical and sequential in your approach. You will find things much easier. Consider involving a mule trainer. 

Conclusion: Are Mules Stubborn?

To conclude, the idea that mules are stubborn is a misnomer. Whenever you encounter a “stubborn” mule, it’s probably trying to outsmart you. Having said that, mules are not stubborn by nature but they will often refuse to do something if they don’t want to. While this can be annoying for owners, it also shows that mules can be very determined once they’ve been convinced to do something. 

What you call a stubborn mule is simply an animal that is trying to survive. If it feels overused or overworked, it will either slow down or “freeze”. Think about how you deal with physical or mental exhaustion and you will understand why mules behave the way they do sometimes. 


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