The Mammoth Jackstock Donkey: A Presidential ‘Stomp’ of Approval

Developed by George Washington, a Mammoth Jackstock’s primary role is to produce draft mules.

The head of a Mammoth Jackstock should be well-shaped and not too long or thick, tapering to a relatively fine, rounded muzzle. It should be in good proportion to the body, with large, wide-set eyes and well-placed, long, thin, upright ears.

Despite a long history of livestock breed development in America, few breeds can claim they originated from the vision of a U.S. president. The American Mammoth Jackstock, however, can.

George Washington believed that the growth of the U.S. would require superior draft animals, such as the fine working mules of Europe. At the time, America didn’t possess the large donkeys needed to breed such desirable animals. But during Washington’s presidency, the king of Spain gifted him with an Andalusian jack (a male donkey) named Royal Gift, along with two jennets (female donkeys) of the same breed. Not long afterward, Washington’s longtime friend, the Marquis de Lafayette, sent him a jack and two jennets from Malta. Washington bred the Maltese jack with one of the Andalusian jennets and produced a fine breeding jack he named Compound. When Washington bred Compound with horses, the pairing led to exceptional animals that were superior in their working abilities and endurance compared with oxen or horses. By the time of Washington’s death, mules sired by Compound sold for about $200 apiece, which today would equal nearly $3,000 each. George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate still keeps a Mammoth Jackstock donkey as a testament to the work Washington did to create the magnificent breed.

Mammoth Jackstocks are tall and sturdy with substantially thick legs and massive, well-made heads. Their ears are one of their outstanding trademarks, often measuring 33 inches from tip to tip.

Breeders must pay close attention to size and bone structure in their animals. According to the American Mammoth Jackstock Association, jacks are expected to stand no fewer than 14.2 hands (58 inches) high at the withers and 61 inches around the heart girth. Jennets and geldings can be no fewer than 14 hands (56 inches), and they have the same heart girth as jacks. Many Mammoth Jackstocks grow to be taller than this, with weights ranging between 900 and 1,200 pounds. Young donkeys may be registered if both parents are registered stock; however, the youngsters must be reevaluated by 5 years of age to ensure they meet the size requirements for the breed.

Breed numbers for American Mammoth Jackstocks came to a peak in the early 20th century, with an estimated
5 million animals in the national herd. As agriculture became more dependent on mechanized tools, the mule slowly lost favor on the American farm. Today, The Livestock Conservancy has the Mammoth Jackstock listed as “critical,” with fewer than 200 annual registrations for the breed.

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