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Behind the scenes: A look at the historic Missouri Mule Club

Meet the mules at the University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine’s Mule Club

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A mule eats from a bowl during feeding time

Because of the pandemic, the mules have spent a lot more time on the farm and less time traveling than in previous years.

The University of Missouri School of Veterinary Medicine’s Mule Club has been home to mules dating back to 1984.

The farm now cares for six mules: Tim, Terry, George, Boone and the two new mules, Rose and Bess, all ranging from 3 to 27 years old.

A long-standing Mule Farm is home to six mules and the Mule Club at MU. The club has been a part of many important Missouri traditions as every year the members travel to various parades, events, and competitions throughout the state.

Being an officer in the Mule Club is a position which boasts a variety of responsibilities and requires quite a bit of patience. Mules are more than stubborn, they are smart: Each mule has their own personality and requires a lot of training, which allows them to travel and participate in different events at the university and across the state.

Vox convergence reporter Connor Lyford gives us a behind the scenes look at his time with the mules.

Robert Schmidt, president of the Mule Club

Robert Schmidt became an officer of the club in 2020.

Spending so much time with the mules, members of the club get to know their personalities. Robert Schmidt, president of the Mule Club, talks about the new 3-year-olds on the farm, Rose and Bess.

“Bess and Rose are just very curious. Bess in particular. I think that’s why I like her. She’s almost just like a golden retriever, but bigger,” Schmidt says. 

John Dodam closes the fence

John Dodam closes the fence so the mules cannot get out. 

John Dodam, the advisor of the Mule Club, arrived at the University of Missouri in 1995 and has been a part of the club for over 25 years.

Dodam allows the graduate student officers in the Mule Club to handle most of the day-to-day care so they can learn more about animals and the veterinary field. However, he still checks in to make sure the mules are receiving the proper care.

One of Dodam’s favorite parts of the Mule Club is the opportunity to interact with the students who join the club. “I keep in contact with them after they graduate. It’s nice to see how those students mature into their professional careers and it’s pretty amazing to see some of the things they’ve done,” Dodam says. 

A nearby trail runner

A nearby trail runner reaches out their hand to pet one of the mules.

The Mule Club has been unable to travel this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. Normally, they would attend a series of parades, competitions and other events across the state with the mules.

Outside of the excitement these events provide, they are also important for funding the Mule Club. “The mules aren’t supported by the state, per say, they are supported by donations from the public," Dodam says. "That’s been a little bit of an issue with us this year because we haven’t been able to go to events."

Luckily, the club has managed to stay afloat throughout this difficult year because of donations from private donors and companies. 

Two mules stand

Two mules stand in the fenced area of the farm eating hay. 

Although it's been a lonely year for many, socializing hasn't changed that much for the mules.

“They get more visitors than I do,” Dodam says. “People are always coming down to see them. Some of them are alumni, a lot of them are students who are currently here, and a lot of folks from Columbia just come down and will say ‘hello’ to them.”

The path by the mules connects directly to a running path, so the signs serve as a warning to the public that unapproved foods from visitors can harm the mules. “They don’t really eat anything fancy, and they don’t really need anything fancy,” Dodam says.  

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