Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Miraculous Birth

Today's Denver Post tells us of an unusual event that took place on a ranch near Colbran in western Colorado. Kate, a "molly" or female mule, has given birth to a healthy female foal. Mules are officially sterile hybrids from the mating of a female horse and a male donkey. But very rarely they do have offspring.

This case is of special interest in that it is apparently the first time since the mid-1980s that a mule foal will be available for the full gamut of modern genetic testing. Geneticists from the University of Kentucky and the University of California - Davis have already tested samples that definitely prove the mother really is a mule and that the foal really is hers.

In our urbanized society most of us see this as an interesting occurance and look forward to more information on the scientific analysis of the genetics involved. In more traditional societies that are closer to their animals, a mule foal has a whole different meaning. From the article:

" When it reportedly happened in Morocco five years ago, locals feared it signaled the end of the world. In Albania in 1994, it was thought to have unleashed the spawn of the devil on a small village."


"It's an event so rare that the Romans had a saying, 'cum mula peperit,' meaning 'when a mule foals' - the equivalent of 'when hell freezes over.'"

A mule enthusiast's magazine is apparently having a contest to name the foal. I look forward to reading some comments from those of you with a stronger background than mine in horses, mules, and genetics.

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