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January 27, 2023 – Mules and donkeys have been trusty human companions for thousands of years, with evidence the Egyptians had mules as early as 3,000 BCE. As both pack animals and for riding, these sure-footed, hardy equids continue to play an important role in the lives of countless individuals.

Over 50 million mules and donkeys share our planet and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Most of these animals are not pets but support people’s livelihoods, often in underserved and resource-poor communities.

Morris Animal Foundation has been supporting equid health studies for more than 60 years, and we’ve recently added studies that directly benefit mule and donkey health to our portfolio.

One ongoing study is working to improve pain management for mules. Since mules can be stoic animals, researchers are defining behavioral signs, such as facial grimaces, to help identify pain. Findings will help improve veterinary care and quality of life for mule patients.

In another study, researchers are developing an educational training program for Spanish-speaking equid owners in Colombia. The training aims to improve early recognition of colic (a gastrointestinal condition). Knowledge of risk factors and appropriate treatment when access to veterinary care is limited, is critical to maintaining good health in working horses, mules and donkeys.