MULES top of class in Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary study

PUBLISHED: 20:29 03 September 2008 | UPDATED: 11:05 17 June 2010

MULES are more intelligent than horses and donkeys, say experts who tested six of each animal at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary.

MULES are more intelligent than horses and donkeys, say experts who tested six of each animal at Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary.

The research project, carried out by Dr Faith Burden from the Sanctuary, with Dr Britta Osthaus from Canterbury Christ Church University and Leanne Proops from the University of Sussex, tested the learning skills of the three breeds in a bid to assess their cognitive abilities.

They found that mules, which are hybrids of male donkeys and female horses, are smarter than either of their parent species.

Dr Osthaus, formerly a teaching fellow at Exeter University for 10 years, said: "The aim of the study was to establish whether mules have different cognitive abilities from donkeys and horses.

"Throughout history, mules were bred because they combined the best of the physical abilities of donkeys and horses.

"However, up until now, little was known about the cognitive abilities of horses, donkeys and mules."

Each animal was shown sets of two food buckets, each marked with a different symbol.

In order to gain access to the food, the animals had to pick the correct bucket.

The mules learned to discriminate between more pairs of symbols than the horses or donkeys, and did so more consistently.


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