- The word hinny is also a term of endearment used in North East England, equivalent to honey; see Geordie and Mackem.
|Species:||Equus caballus x Equus asinus|
A hinny is a domestic equine hybrid that is the offspring of a horse stallion (male) and a jenny donkey (female). It is the reciprocal cross to the more common mule, which is the product of a jack donkey and a horse mare.
Hinnies are on average slightly smaller than mules in part because donkeys are generally smaller than horses, and growth potential of equine offspring is influenced by the size of the dam's womb. There is debate over whether this is the only reason for the size variances between the two types of hybrid equines. Some fanciers believe this size difference is only physiological, owing to the smaller size of the donkey dam, as compared to mares, which are generally much larger. Others claim it is a natural consequence of the reciprocal cross, but the position of the American Donkey and Mule Society (ADMS) is that "The genetic inheritance of the hinny is exactly the same as the mule."
Like mules, hinnies do come in many sizes. This is because donkeys come in many sizes, from miniatures, as small as 24 inches (610 mm) at the withers, to American Mammoth Jacks that may be over 15 hands (60 inches, 152 cm) at the withers. Thus, a hinny is restricted to being about the size of the largest breed of donkey. Mules, however, have a female horse as a parent, so they can be as large as the size of the largest breed of horse, such as those foaled from work horse mares such as the Belgian.
Other than size, there are some minor differences that may occur to distinguish between mules and hinnies. The head of a hinny is said to resemble that of a horse, more so than mule heads, with shorter ears, although they are still longer than those of horses, and more horse-like manes and tails than mules. There are both male and female hinnies. A male hinny is properly called a horse hinny, and a female hinny is properly called a mare hinny. In England, a hinny is commonly called a jennet.
Fertility, sterility, and rarity
Hinnies are difficult to obtain because of the differences in the number of chromosomes of the horse and the donkey. A donkey has 62 chromosomes, whereas a horse has 64. Hinnies, being hybrids of those two species, have 63 chromosomes and are sterile. The uneven number of chromosomes results in an incomplete reproductive system. According to the ADMS, "The equine hybrid is easier to obtain when the lower chromosome count, the donkey, is in the male. Therefore breeding for hinnies is more hit-and-miss [sic] than breeding for mules."
Female hinnies and mules are not customarily spayed, and may or may not go through estrus. Female mules have been known, on rare occasions, to produce offspring when mated to a horse or donkey, though this is extremely uncommon. Since 1527 there have been more than sixty documented cases of foals born to female mules around the world. In contrast, according to the ADMS, there is only one known case of a female hinny doing so.
In China in 1981, a hinny mare proved fertile with a donkey sire. When the Chinese hinny was bred to a jack, she produced "Dragon Foal," which resembled a donkey with mule-like features. In Morocco in 2002, a mule mare bred to a donkey sire produced a male foal. DNA testing revealed the foal has a mixed karyotype hybrid like the Chinese hinny offspring, Dragon Foal.
There are other reasons for the rarity of hinnies. Jennies and stallions may be choosier about their mates than horse mares and donkey jacks. Thus, the two parties involved may not care to mate. Even if they do cooperate, female donkeys are less likely to conceive when bred to a horse than horse mares are when bred to a donkey. Breeding large hinnies is an even bigger challenge, as it requires stock from a jenny of large size, such as the Baudet de Poitou or American Mammoth Donkey. Mammoth donkey stock is becoming increasingly rare and has been declared an endangered domestic breed. Fanciers are unlikely to devote a Mammoth jenny's valuable breeding time to producing sterile hinny hybrids when Mammoth females are in high demand to produce fertile pure-bred Mammoth foals.
- Staff (May 22, 2013). "Longear Lingo". lovelongears.com. American Donkey and Mule Society. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
- Rong, Ruizhang; Cai, Huedi; Yang, Xiuqin; Wei, Jun (October 1985). "Fertile mule in China and her unusual foal". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information) 78 (10): 821–25. Retrieved 13 July 2014.
- Kay, Katty (October 2, 2002). "Morocco's miracle mule". BBC. Retrieved July 16, 2014.
- McKinnon, Angus O.; Squires, Edward L; Vaala, Wendy E et al., eds. (2011). Equine Reproduction (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-4709-6187-2.
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