mule

Control and prevention of epizootic lymphangitis in mules: an integrated community-based intervention, Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

From 2010 to 2017, as part of a wider animal welfare program, The Donkey Sanctuary piloted an integrated, community-based model for the control and prevention of epizootic lymphangitis (EZL) in cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Stakeholders included muleteers, service providers, and transport and animal health regulatory authorities. Interventions included muleteer education, wound prevention, harness improvement, animal health professional training, treatment of early EZL cases, euthanasia for advanced cases, and review of transport services and traffic guidelines. The project followed a participatory project management cycle and used participatory learning and action tools to facilitate stakeholder engagement and ownership. Participatory and classical epidemiology tools were employed to raise and align stakeholder understanding about EZL for effective control and prevention and to evaluate the progress impact of the model through annual prevalence surveys. During the intervention, the annual prevalence of EZL reduced from 23.9% (102/430) (95%CI: 19.8%−27.0%) in 2010 to 5.9% (58/981) (95% CI: 4.4%−7.4%) in 2017, and wound prevalence from 44.3% in 2011 to 22.2% in 2017; trends in the reduction of the prevalence maintained in the face of a mule population that increased from 430 in 2010 to ~1,500 in 2017. While non-governmental organization (NGO)-led interventions can facilitate change by trialing new approaches and accessing new skills and resources, sustainable change requires community ownership and strengthening of service provision systems. To this effect, the project raised muleteer competence in mule husbandry and EZL prevention strategies; strengthened veterinary competence; facilitated more mule-friendly traffic, transport, and waste disposal guidelines and practices; supported mule-community bylaws to control EZL; and established a supportive network between stakeholders including trusting relationships between muleteers and veterinary services. To advance the intervention model in other endemic areas, we recommend elucidation of local epidemiological factors with other stakeholders prior to the intervention, early engagement with veterinary and transport service regulatory authorities, early development of bylaws, exploration of compensation or insurance mechanisms to support euthanasia of advanced cases, and additional social, economic, and epidemiological investigations. In line with the OIE Working Equid Welfare Standards, we suggest that integrated community-based interventions are useful approaches to the control and prevention of infectious diseases.

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Domesticated equine species and their derived hybrids differ in their fecal microbiota

Background: Compared to horses and ponies, donkeys have increased degradation of dietary fiber. The longer total mean retention time of feed in the donkey gut has been proposed to be the basis of this, because of the increased time available for feed to be acted upon by enzymes and the gut microbiota. However, differences in terms of microbial concentrations and/or community composition in the hindgut may also underpin the increased degradation of fiber in donkeys. Therefore, a study was conducted to assess if differences existed between the fecal microbiota of pony, donkey and hybrids derived from them (i.e. pony × donkey) when fed the same forage diet. 

Results: Fecal community composition of prokaryotes and anaerobic fungi significantly differed between equine types. The relative abundance of two bacterial genera was significantly higher in donkey compared to both pony and pony x donkey: Lachnoclostridium 10 and ‘probable genus 10’ from the Lachnospiraceae family. The relative abundance of Piromyces was significantly lower in donkey compared to pony × donkey, with pony not significantly differing from either of the other equine types. In contrast, the uncultivated genus SK3 was only found in donkey (4 of the 8 animals). The number of anaerobic fungal OTUs was also significantly higher in donkey than in the other two equine types, with no significant differences found between pony and pony × donkey. Equine types did not significantly differ with respect to prokaryotic alpha diversity, fecal dry matter content or fecal concentrations of bacteria, archaea and anaerobic fungi.

Conclusions: Donkey fecal microbiota differed from that of both pony and pony × donkey. These differences related to a higher relative abundance and diversity of taxa with known, or speculated, roles in plant material degradation. These findings are consistent with the previously reported increased fiber degradation in donkeys compared to ponies, and suggest that the hindgut microbiota plays a role. This offers novel opportunities for pony and pony × donkey to extract more energy from dietary fiber via microbial mediated strategies. This could potentially decrease the need for energy dense feeds which are a risk factor for gut-mediated disease.

Volume
2
Issue
8
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Reference intervals for hematological and blood biochemistry reference values in healthy mules and hinnies

Little scientific information is known regarding mules and even less is known about hinnies. Due to increased popularity of both as recreational animals which are still commonly found as working equids, there is a need for such basic information for practitioners and owners. The purpose of this study was to begin to establish reference ranges for hematological and biochemical parameters of clinically healthy mules and hinnies compared to those of their sires and dams (horses and donkeys of similar genotype, phenotype within species) used for hybrid offspring production. Such information will contribute to our understanding and attempts to improve management and disease diagnosis of hinnies and mules. Eighty-one healthy equids (n = 30 hinnies, 20 mules, 20 donkeys, and 11 horses) were sampled. Clinical data recorded age, gender, BCS, and temperature. Two 10-mL blood samples were collected by venipuncture of the jugular vein, using “vacutainer” plain and EDTA tubes. These samples were analyzed for RBC, PCV, Hb, WBC, platelets, proteins, fatty acids, electrolytes, enzymes, and glucose. Average and standard deviations were calculated. Kruskal-Wallis test was used to test the significant value. Findings were considered to be significant if P ≤ 0.05. When comparing all parameters among four groups of equids, differences were found for temperature, red blood cell lines, white blood cell lines, electrolytes, and enzymes. Differences in mules and hinnies were seen in RBC, WBC, magnesium, bilirubin, creatinine, and AST. The results are constricted to very few known populations of equid hybrids with similar genetics. In this study, hinnies and mules showed results that were closer to those of horses than those of donkeys. Some differences recorded in hinnies may be related to age: RBC, WBC, MCH, MCV, eosinophils, magnesium, total bilirubin, creatinine, and AST. Findings may help establish new, relevant hematological and biochemical parameters which may prevent medical misdiagnosis. Additional research is needed with larger populations of healthy mules and hinnies.

Volume
25
Start page
871
End page
878
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Review: anaesthesia and analgesia of the donkey and the mule

The number of donkeys and mules throughout the world is stable, and awareness of their use and concern for welfare, pain recognition and treatment are receiving increasing veterinary interest. Therefore, accurate information about anaesthesia and analgesia in donkeys and mules is important to ever more equine practitioners. Since donkeys are physiologically and pharmacologically different from horses, knowledge on species specific aspects of anaesthesia and analgesia are very important. Mules combine elements from both donkey and horse backgrounds, leading to great diversity in size, temperament and body type. Physiologically, they seem to resemble horses more than donkeys. This review highlights the current knowledge on various anaesthetic and analgesic approaches in donkeys and mules. There is still much information that is not available about donkeys; in many circumstances, the clinician must use available equine information to treat the patient, while monitoring carefully to observe for differences in response to therapy compared to the horse.

Volume
25
Issue
1
Start page
47
End page
51
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The prevalence of lameness and associated risk factors in cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has 7.1 million donkeys and mules, the majority of which are used as pack animals. Factors such as poor harness quality, long-distance traveling, and heavy cartloads have been linked to reduced work efficiency. Addressing the health and welfare of working equids is imperative not only for the animals but also for the households dependent upon them for livelihood. In developing countries, 75 % of working equids have gait or limb abnormalities, but the relationship between workload and prevalence of lameness is unknown. We examined 450 cart mules in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Lameness and workload were assessed through use of a survey and lameness exam. We found that 26.8 % of cart mules were lame, and acute lameness of the forelimb was the most common. Animals with poor harness quality were 2.5 times more likely to have sores and 1.6 times more likely to be lame. Lameness tended to be associated with cartloads >700 kg (P = 0.09), and there was a significant association between multiple-leg lameness and cartload weight (P = 0.03). The presence of sores was the best predictor of lameness (P = 0.001). Possible areas of intervention may include education to reduce average daily workload and improving harness design.

Volume
48
Issue
172
Start page
1483
End page
1489
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Country

Spatial cognition and perseveration by horses, donkeys and mules in a simple A-not-B detour task

We investigated perseveration and detour behaviour in 36 equids (Equus caballus, E. asinus, E. caballus x E. asinus) and compared these data to those of a previous study on domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). The animals were required to make a detour through a gap at one end of a straight barrier in order to reach a visible target. After one, two, three or four repeats (A trials), the gap was moved to the opposite end of the barrier (B trials). We recorded initial deviations from the correct solution path and the latency to crossing the barrier. In the A trials, mules crossed the barrier significantly faster than their parental species, the horses and donkeys. In the B trials, following the change of gap location, all species showed a reduction in performance. Both dogs and horses exhibited significant spatial perseveration, going initially to the previous gap location. Donkeys and mules, however, performed at chance level. Our results suggest that hybrid vigour in mules extends to spatial abilities.

Volume
16
Start page
301
End page
305
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Country

Social relations in a mixed group of mules, ponies and donkeys reflect differences in equid type

Donkeys and mules are frequently kept as companion animals for horses and ponies, with these different equids often being considered a homogenous group. However, the extent to which domestic equids form inter-specific bonds and display similar social behaviour when living in a mixed herd has not previously been studied. Here we compare the social organization of these three (sub)species when housed together, providing the first systematic analysis of how genetic hybridization is expressed in the social behaviour of mules. A group of 16 mules, donkeys and ponies was observed for 70 h and preferred associates, dominance rank and the linearity of the group’s hierarchy was determined. The different equids formed distinct affiliative groups that were ordered in a linear hierarchy with ponies as the most dominant, mules in the middle ranks and donkeys in the lowest ranks. Within each equid subgroup, the strength of the hierarchy also varied. Thus in the present study, the three (sub)species displayed different social organization and levels of dominance and preferred to associate with animals of the same equid type, given the opportunity. These results suggest that different domestic equid (sub) species display variations in social behaviour that are likely to have a strong genetic basis.

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Practical feeding and condition scoring for donkeys

Donkeys have evolved to thrive on highly fibrous, poor quality foodstuffs and have evolved as browsers as well as grazers. As such, they have different nutrient requirements with significantly lower energy and protein needs when compared with horses. Dietary management of donkeys is essential when kept in a temperate climate as they are prone to obesity and related disorders. A diet based on fibrous forages and limited grazing is usually sufficient for the majority of donkeys and mules. Specialist feeding is discussed in this article.

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Mule cognition: a case of hybrid vigour?

This study compares the behaviour of the mule (Equus asinus × Equus caballus) with that of its parent species to assess the effects of hybridization on cognition. Six mules, six ponies (E. caballus) and six donkeys (E. asinus) were given a two choice visual discrimination learning task. Each session consisted of 12 trials and pass level was reached when subjects chose the correct stimulus for at least 9 out of the 12 trials in three consecutive sessions. A record was made of how many pairs each subject learnt over 25 sessions. The mules’ performance was significantly better than that of either of the parent species (Kruskal-Wallis: Hx = 8.11, P = 0.017). They were also the only group to learn enough pairs to be able to show a successive reduction in the number of sessions required to reach criterion level. This study provides the first empirical evidence that the improved characteristics of mules may be extended from physical attributes to cognitive function.

Volume
12
Issue
1
Start page
75
End page
84
Publication date
Keywords

Measuring conformation in mules, hinnies, and donkeys (equus asinus) from Spanish and Portuguese populations

Mules and hinnies are hybrid offspring of donkeys (Equus asinus) and horses (Equus caballus). Little scientific information is known regarding mules and even less is known about hinnies, the reciprocal cross. Conformation standards are in place for horses but currently are not available for equid hybrids or donkeys. Conformation maybe related to functionality and longevity of equids. All animals in this study were of similar genetics (Zamora Leones and Mirandes donkey breeds and Spanish horses) from Toro, Spain and Miranda do Douro, Portugal and used for traction.

Volume
35
Issue
5
Start page
426
End page
427
Publication date
Country
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