The Ecological, Economic, and Cultural Legacies of the Mule in Southeast Brazil

In: Society & Animals
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  • 1 Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro, Gávea, Brazil
  • 2 Pontifical Catholic University Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
  • 3 Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Abstract

Resulting from cross-breeding a horse and a donkey, the mule influenced southeast Brazil’s economic development perhaps more so than any other domesticated animal; the mule served as the key transport vehicle during both Brazil’s 18th century gold era and 19th century coffee era. In enabling mining and agriculture products to traverse mountainous terrain to reach port cities near São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, the mule played a central role in the region’s economic and ecological history. Although the mule has not been southeast Brazil’s primary transport method since the train’s arrival in the 1870s, rural and urban dwellers still employ the mule over short distances near two protected landmasses despite declining generational interest and use. More recently, with increasing leisure use as a companion animal, the mule stimulates tourism and local economic patterns via large gatherings while serving as a cultural symbol of Brazil’s patrimony.

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