One of the great unsung heroes of the Old West wasn’t even a person. It was the mule. These animals are a hybrid of a female horse and a male donkey, and they inherited the best traits from each of their parents.

Mules are athletic and intelligent. They also have a greater range of vision and are more footed than either the horse or donkey. Plus they are more even-tempered. All of these traits added up to one perfect animal for helping settlers expand across America. Mules could carry heavy loads, walk longer distances, and navigate rugged terrain and they were the perfect pack animal and companion for cowboys.

On National Mule Day, tip your hat to the animal that helped tame the West.

Today we also celebrate: National Pumpkin Day, National Day of the Deployed, National Financial Crime Fighter Day, National Mincemeat Day, and National Tennessee Day.