The Berserk Mule

D. E. Larsen, DVM

Life is supposed to get better when the kids are grown and have families of their own. When you more or less retire and enjoy the fruits of your labors. That was what Billie envisioned.

Then her son and his buddy bought a mule, and they needed a place to keep it. That was an easy decision to make since Mom and Dad had a small ranch. 

“We can keep it out at the folks,” the son says to his buddy.

It was not an impressive-looking mule. It may have been a hinny, but they believed it was a mule. It was small in stature compared to most mules that I have known. But it had a good history as a pack animal.

They purchased it just for that purpose, to use as a pack animal for their hunting trips. So, it had nothing to do for 11 months of the year except to establish dominance over the cows, which reluctantly shared his pasture.

Everything was fine for the fall and winter. The little mule moved about the farm with no problems. He seemed to get along with the cows fine. He could be observed biting at a cow once in a while to make sure she did what he thought was correct. But other than that occasional bite on a cow to make sure she was doing what the mule expected, there were no issues.

Spring came, and the cows were calving. As the numbers of calves increased, so did the stress on the mule.

“I need Doc to come now!” Billie said into the phone as soon as Sandy answered. And then the line was dead.

Sandy luckily recognized Billie’s voice and tried to return the call but got a busy signal. We had no idea what the emergency was, but it was obviously an emergency. I jumped into the truck and headed toward Pleasant Valley.

When I arrived, Billie was in the driveway to the barn, turning circles with a small shotgun in her hands. 

She grabbed me by the arm and rested her forehead on my shoulder, with a big sob, she says, “I am so glad to see you, Doc.”

“What going on, Billie?” I asked.

“That damn little worthless mule has gone berserk,” Billie said. “He has been attacking the calves. Not little nips like he did with the cows. He was picking these calves up by the back of their neck and throwing them in the air. Then he was falling on them with knees. I know he was trying to kill them.”

I glanced out in the field by the barn. All the calves up and moving with their mothers. The cows milling around in wide circles, obviously upset. 

“I am here all alone,” Billie said. “I had no idea what to do. I called your office and then decided I needed to shoot the worthless thing. We have a whole house full of guns, and I don’t know a thing about any of them.”

I reached out and took the small shotgun out of her hands. If she didn’t know anything about guns, it would be safer in my hands while she was telling the story.

“I grabbed this gun, and then I didn’t know what shells fit it,” Billie said.

I looked at the gun. It was a single shot 410. I opened the breach, and there was a 30-30 shell in the chamber. It had been fired.

“Is this what you used to shoot at him?” I asked.

“Yes, that is the only thing that I could find the would fit into the thing,” Billie said. “I came out here and pointed it at him and pulled the trigger. I don’t think I hit anything, but he must know a gunshot. He stopped right now. I was trying to decide what to do next when you pulled into the driveway.”

Billie grabbed my arm again, “I was never so happy to see somebody.”

“Billie, this is a rifle cartridge that you shot in a shotgun,” I said. “You are probably lucking this little gun didn’t blow up with you.”

“It was the only thing that I could find that fit,” Bille said.

“I will go out and check the calves,” I said. “I guess I should check the mule also, just to make sure there isn’t a bullet hole in him somewhere.”

“You can look at him, but we are not going to spend any money on him,” Billie said. “The boys are just going have to find another home him. He is done at this place.”

“I will walk through the calves and just make sure there are no major injuries,” I said. “They all look good from here. I will run the mule into the barn and close the gate. You don’t need to have any more excitement this afternoon. When will Bill be home.”

“Bill is out of town for a couple of days,” Billie said. “I have Larry called, and he will come out when he is off this afternoon. But if you can get that jackass into the barn, I would appreciate it.”

I walked through the calves. The cows were all upset and reluctant to give me much access. Everyone was moving well and looked okay.  There were a couple of scrapes on the back of the neck on a couple of calves. There was no way to deal the that this afternoon.

The mule was a sucker for a can of grain, and he followed me into the loafing shed side of the barn. I was able to get the gate closed and latched. He was not happy when he realized that he was trapped in there. He just didn’t understand how lucky he was that Bill wasn’t home. Bill was a crack shot, a marine veteran who fought in the Pacific during WWII. He would not have missed.

“I think the calves are okay,” I said as I returned from the barn. “There are a couple of scrapes, but I think those will heal without any treatment. The mule is secured. He might need some water. You might have Larry check that when he gets here.”

“It is the other boys who I am going to call right now,” Billie said. “They are going have to be out here tonight or tomorrow and move that guy somewhere. His welcome here has expired.”

Photo by Julissa Helmuth from Pexels

Published by d.e.larsen.dvm

Country vet for over 40 years in Sweet Home Oregon. I graduated from Colorado State University in 1975. I practiced in Enumclaw Washington for a year and a half before moving to Sweet Home to start a practice.

8 thoughts on “The Berserk Mule

  1. So…what happened to the mule? Did he live to see another day…or, bite the dust?? Your life sir has certainly been filled with adventures…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, Kathy, the mule lived. But just because Billie didn’t know how to shoot. The boys did find a different place for him to stay and then decided he was not worth the trouble so they sold him.


  2. So that was the last you saw of the mule?

    I wonder how it got to this, it is not normal for a herd animal like a mule to attack other herd animals. Wasn’t it castrated? Did it have a bad episode with a cow who defended her calf in the past so now it saw all calves as a danger?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My experience with mules can be counted on the fingers of one hand. I have been told, by people far more knowledgeable than I, that this behavior in mules is not unheard of, if not common.


  3. My experience with mules and donkeys can be counted on one had too, but they’re the same as what happened with this mule. In one case I had a castrated donkey who was supposed to protect my goat herd. He was fine with the wethers that he spent the winter with. But when I added the hornless does to the herd, he decidd he had to protect his wethers from them. He started grabbing them by the neck and throwing them around. I had lots of injuries to deal with before we figured out it was him and removed him.

    Liked by 1 person

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