I have always had a problem with sex. Just last week I was in the grocery store and spotted the cutest little newborn baby I ever saw. “Isn’t that a beautiful baby boy,” I remarked to no one in particular.
“I’ll have you know that is not a boy…..it is my daughter,” replied an upset shopper in the produce aisle.
“I’m very sorry,” I said embarrassed, “I didn’t know you were her father.”
“I’m not, I’m her mother,” she replied as she gathered up her rutabagas and her kid and left in a huff. Well, how was I supposed to know? She had closely cropped hair, except on her legs, and had an earring in her ear. Isn’t that a sure sign of a male these days?
But it’s not just people I have a hard time distinguishing the gender of… it’s animals, and that is very embarrassing for an animal science graduate. I can’t tell you how many times I have looked at a pen of heifers straight on and remarked, ” what a good looking set of steers.” I have quite frequently failed the sex test with dogs, rabbits, horses……you name it. Most of the time these mistakes occur when I didn’t really study the anatomy of the animal in question or have the time to wait for it to go to the bathroom.
This mistaken identity crises has gotten so bad that any more I simply refer to any animal as “it” instead of he or she. But I don’t think I am the only one who has a problem with the gender gap. I’d be willing to bet that 90% of non-agricultural people think that all animals with horns are male. And I’ve even heard of a couple cases where some cowhands put a steer through the chute for the vet to pregnancy check and he called him “safe” four months. So it’s not just me.
But I will admit I am very confused when it comes to donkeys, mules and jackasses, which the following true story will illustrate. A couple years ago a friend of mine came to me with a business proposition. “Lee, ” he said, “we need to breed some mules.”
“But I thought that mules were sterile,” I recalled from my animal science education.
“You are mostly correct. As you are probably aware,” he informed me, “a mule is a cross between a male of the ass family and a female of the horse family. The reciprocal cross is known as a Hinny. Now the result of such a cross is not fertile… except in five known cases where a horse did lower himself enough to breed a mare mule and a foal resulted. If we could get that to happen to us and we’d be rich and famous.”
I had to admit that was probably my best chance of becoming rich and famous, “But why come to me?”
“Well, it’s common knowledge that you own Gentleman and that he is a stud horse.”
“But why Gentleman?”
“Quite frankly, no one else would lend me their good stud to breed to a bunch of mules. Couldn’t get a real horse to do it now could we?”
That sounded logical to me, so I agreed to allow Gentleman to become part of this get rich quick scheme. We turned Gentleman loose into a pasture with ten of my friend’s mules. Gentleman took one look around at the mules and headed for the barn, not wanting anything to do with this pre-arranged donkey dating game. I was now very skeptical of this idea and told my friend, “Gentleman is many things but he is not a jackass.”
But I agreed it wouldn’t hurt to let Gentleman stay in his pasture eating free feed for a few days. Much to my surprise, two days later I got a call from my friend who urged me to rush right over. There in the field was Gentleman and he was clearly showing an interest in one of the mules. I was already counting my money and seeing my picture right up there with all the other great animal geneticists when my friend informed me, “I don’t know who is more stupid, you or your horse. Gentleman has taken a liking to the only male mule in the bunch.”
Stay tuned. If this works I’ll go down as one of the greatest animal geneticists of all time.