Molly The Mule

Introducing our newest exhibit:
Molly the Mule!

Hi! I’m Molly! Did you know that a female mule is often referred to as a ‘molly’? Us mules get a bad rap for having a strong will and a stubborn nature. What many don’t realize is that mules were often a farmer’s best friend helping to make backbreaking farm work a little easier.

While trying to find the best way to showcase the early 1900s Samson Horse Power Treadmill in JUMP’s vintage tractor collection, the fine folks here figured the only way to really appreciate the design and contribution of this antique piece of farm machinery would be to see it in action! And to do that, they needed a horse (or a mule) to power the thing. They quickly realized that a real animal would be too messy (and not a very nice life for the animal), but what about an animatronic one?  

Working with Garner Holt Productions, Inc, known worldwide for its outstanding design and manufacture of animatronics, including Disney and Universal Studios, the idea of ME came to life! In fact, I look so real that people have mistaken me for a live mule. 

You can find me located just outside the Simplot company’s world headquarters at the corner of 11th & Front Streets. Press the button on my display and I come to life - walking, braying and swaying my head back and forth.  

The History of Horsepower

The term horsepower is most often used to describe the power in the latest model of engine, but did you know the word originally comes from horse-powered machinery? The average draft horse typically was considered to have the tractive power to pull 1/8 of its body weight for 20 miles, traveling at 2.5 miles per hour. Thus, a typical 1500-pound draft horse could develop 33,000-foot pounds per minute, which became defined as one horsepower. To put that in perspective, the typical new car has between 200 and 250 horsepower. That means that it would take over 200 draft horses to power your vehicle!

But before engines, horses (and mules) were a reliable option to power machinery. In the early 1800s, most horse powers were still stationary and fitted with simple, low-speed gearing. In the 1830s, inventors around the world focused on automating farm equipment to help reduce the drudgery, difficulty and danger of farm jobs and improve efficiency to allow farmers to produce more crops. During this time, inventors evolved many forms of gearing to increase the speed to meet the demand that was required by the new threshing machines and other equipment of the time. 

As the popularity of steam and gas engines grew, horse-powered machines were no longer needed. In 1920, there were more than 25 million horses on American farms. By 1950, that number had dropped to fewer than 8 million.  While horses (and mules) remain workmates, valuable and even beloved friends, our role in modern agriculture has certainly changed. 

Finally, you might wonder why I am a mule and not a horse. It’s simple really, mules have more personality. Come see me for yourself and you’ll understand.