Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Army Mules




We went to the Army - Wake Forest football game this past weekend in North Carolina (my hubby is a West Point grad) and it was a lot of fun.  For a few years we have talked about trying to locate a retired Army mule.  I knew nothing about the history behind the mules so a brief lesson is in order.

There are two mules that serve as the Army mascot.  The tradition dates to 1899 when an officer at the Philadelphia Quartermaster Depot decided that the team needed a mascot to counter the Navy goat.  Mules had been used for generations to haul Army gear so they were a logical choice.  Not much is known about the "official" mules until 1936 when Mr. Jackson (named for Stonewall), arrived from Front Royal, Virginia (about 2 hours north of where we live).  He served for 12 years presiding over two national championship teams.  There have been 17 "official" Army mules. Only one has been female, Buckshot.


The current Mules are:

* Ranger III - (known as Jack).  He has been on campus since 2011 and was trained by MAJ Anne Hessinger, an Army veterinarian, who served at WP from 2003-2006.  Named, like his predecessor, for the 75th Ranger Regiment and all Rangers past and present, Ranger III came to the Academy in 2011 as a gift of Steve Townes, class of 1975.  He is 16'2 and the son of a Percheron mare.  Townes has donated many mules to West Point. Thank you!

* Stryker (known as Abe). He is the half-brother of Ranger III and was also trained by the same person and gifted by Townes.  He is slightly shorter than his brother.

Mules are a cross between a donkey and a horse.  The size of the horse will likely dictate the size of the mule. Some of the past  WP mules are bred to Quarter Horses which will likely make them smaller like the one in the photo above.  The current mules appear to be large since they are half Percheron (a draft horse).

The riders for the mules are chosen, one from each class.  They are kept at West Point and while many believe that they are the West Point mascot, they are really the mascot for the entire Army.  West Point's mascot is the Black Knight.

Other mules were named General Scott, Ranger II, Raider, Trooper, Traveler, Black Jack, Ranger I, Spartacus, Buckshot, Hannibal II, Trotter, K.C. MO, Hannibal I, Pancho and Mr. Jackson.


We made some contacts at the game and hope that we will one day be able to "retire" one of the mules on our farm.  Would that not be cool?  We think so and we'd love to give one a great home.  It's much warmer in Virginia than in upstate New York too!


There is a great movie if you like old ones, called Francis Goes to West Point (1952) with Donald O'Connor.



We love watching it and the main character, Francis is a mule.  He actually goes to West Point. When hubby sees it he always is able to point out locations from the movie that he recognizes.  Some things never change: mascots, mules, and the venerable West Point.  Army lost the game, by the way, but what a fun weekend.  They sent the "human" mule too (my photo did not turn out well) - the real ones stayed home. 


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