George Washington's study of agriculture convinced him that mules (the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse) were better suited to farm work because they were stronger and had more endurance than a horse.
When he began breeding mules at Mount Vernon in the 1780s, Washington used imported donkeys from Spain, Malta, and South America. The animals were expensive and it was illegal to export them from Spain without permission from the Spanish king.
In 1784, William Carmichael—the U.S. chargé d' affaires at the Spanish court—made Washington's desires known to the Spanish king, who was happy to oblige. Royal Gift, as the jack was later named, arrived at Mount Vernon on the night of December 5, 1785. Royal Gift, the spanish donkey