George Washington King Carlos 111 of Spain and The Ass

George Washington King Carlos 111 of Spain and The Ass

King Carlos of Spain donated to George Washington two prized asse’s.  One of the jackasses, aptly named Royal Gift, would prove to be monumentally successful in his duty as stud.

King-Carlos-111-of-Spain George Washington

  Washington’s true passion involved horses.  He has been described as one of the finest horsemen of his day.  He raised working farm animals, but also bred some of the finest race horses in America.  He had over 100 horses stabled at his Mount Vernon farm at any given time.  Washington, always the avid student of all things agricultural, knew instinctively that jackass mules (a cross between a horse and a donkey) could do much more than a typical farm horse – they lived longer, were more manageable, ate less and were much hardier.

GEORGE WASHINGTON AND SPANISH KING CARLOS III: Jackass diplomacy?

GEORGE WASHINGTON is an American icon.
George WashingtonAs the first president of the United States, he is forever recognised as an accomplished statesman, inspirational leader and military strategist.  He heroically led a disorganised rag-tag group of colonist farmers over the mighty British in America’s war of Independence.  He is the “Father of his Country”.

His many biographers portray Washington as a modest man with great physical strength, patience, integrity, courage and resolve.  There is another dimension to this man’s life, however – a seldom-told dimension – with some very Spanish overtones.
Consider……

In spite of all the above accolades, agriculture and farming meant more to George Washington than those honours he gained on the battlefield or at the seat of government.  Certainly no theme appears more often in Washington’s own personal letters than the love of his Virginia plantation, Mount Vernon.

Some biographers have noted that Washington, “…whether a patriot statesman or soldier, never ceased to be a farmer.  In fact, he was a better farmer than a general.”  High praise indeed considering the man’s many achievements.

Washington was an agricultural pioneer.  He experimented with rotating his lucrative tobacco harvests with grain crops to maximise soil efficiency.  He was among the first to suspect that tobacco invasively depleted the soil and drained it of its vitality.

By rotating the “cash” crop of tobacco with multiple grain crops, Washington was able to successfully restore his fields to maximum resilience and, in fact, increase tobacco production in the long term.  Furthermore, he continually experimented in fertilising the soil with what was at hand.  For example, he used various animal manures combined with the mud and fish from the nearby Potomac River as ways to further enrich his soil.  By the end of his life (1799), he had raised or at least experimented with, as many as 60 different crops.

Washington’s true passion involved horses.  He has been described as one of the finest horsemen of his day.  He raised working farm animals, but also bred some of the finest race horses in America.  He had over 100 horses stabled at his Mount Vernon farm at any given time.  Washington, always the avid student of all things agricultural, knew instinctively that jackass mules (a cross between a horse and a donkey) could do much more than a typical farm horse – they lived longer, were more manageable, ate less and were much hardier.

Horses, Washington concluded, were fine for racing, riding and show but what was needed was “an excellent race of mules.”

ass George WashingtonThe problem was there was a paucity of breeding stock in early America.  It was no secret that the World’s best breeding donkeys and jackasses were Spanish.  Prized Spanish donkeys were noticeably larger, had more endurance, could pack more, and were much less sensitive to the elements of rain, snow and sun.  In 1785, Spanish King Carlos III, hoping to gain favourable diplomatic relations with the new president and new nation (and to spite America and Spain’s shared arch-enemy, namely, England) sent Washington two prized donkeys.  One of the jackasses, aptly named Royal Gift, would prove to be monumentally successful in his duty as stud.  Records indicate that prior to King Carlos’s gift there were 98 horses and two mules housed at Mount Vernon but by 1799 those statistics had changed to 25 horses and 58 mules.  The offspring of royal Gift often toured the American East coast producing a progeny that vastly improved the mule stock of the Country.
Washington was so pleased with this gesture of jackass diplomacy that he wrote to King Carlos saying:

“My honor is due to his Catholic Majesty for the honor of his present… my thank-you for the jackasses which you have graciously pleased to compliment me and to assure his Majesty of my unbound gratitude.”

Washington’s instincts were prophetic.  Mules would go on to play a very significant role in America’s development.  Spanish jackass-mules became the dominant work animal of choice in America’s agricultural tradition.  They became the trucks and tractors of their day.  Mules pulled canal barges, stage coaches, firefighting equipment and ambulances.  Frontiersmen and explorers knew the value of the mule over a horse.

One mountaineer wrote:…”live on intimate terms of brother/explorer with your mule.”  Mules have also played an important role in American military history.  Pack mules provided unlimited mobility to cavalry, infantry and artillery units.  In fact, the mule is the official symbol of the US Army.

jackass George WashingtonIn addition to being the “Father of his Country”, Washington is also revered as the “Father of the American Mule”.

SPANISH ROYAL GIFT:  Jackass-mules became the dominant work animal of choice in America’s agricultural tradition.
They also played an important role in American military history.  In fact, the mule is the official symbol of the US Army.

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