Riding through the streets of the French Quarter in a carriage is a fun way for families to experience the sights and sounds of New Orleans. But did you know we use mules instead of horses to pull carriages in New Orleans? A mule has a horse for a mom and a donkey for a dad. They have a better tolerance to heat, are smarter, up to 1.5 times stronger than a horse, live longer, and won’t work themselves to death.
Mules work either a day shift or night shift with each shift lasting up to 8 hours in the winter or 7 in the summer but there is a mandatory rest time between each tour they pull. And, if the temperature reaches 95 degrees Fahrenheit, the drivers take the mules in.
Sure, mules work hard – but they’re also part of the family; their career even comes with great healthcare and vacation packages. Tour mules are seen by a farrier (a hoof specialist) at least once a week and a vet at least once every three months (more frequently if needed). Plus, each Royal Carriages mule receives three months of vacation a year on a 30-acre farm in the Mississippi country side.
The SPCA dictates the laws surrounding working mules and those laws are heavily enforced by the city’s transportation board.
Most drivers are assigned a mule long term, and they work together as a team. Visitors are often surprised to learn each mule has a name and a story to tell.
For instance, Elvis is a 21-year-old Percheron Plow mule from Memphis, whose French Quarter carriage tour career began 8 years ago with Royal Carriages. His inquisitive personality and friendly disposition make him a fan favorite not to mention one of the most photographed mules in the Quarter. Elvis is smart enough to know he’s a favorite too – he always begs guests for an extra treat or two, but customers are always willing to oblige.
Another fun-loving mule is Pretty Boy. He’s an 11-year-old Clydesdale mule who is extremely handsome and strong. With 6 years on the job, he’s become quite the carriage puller.
But these two are just a small glimpse into the life of a French Quarter mule. So take a ride and get to know some of the mules (and their drivers) personally while you’re here. You won’t be sorry!