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Britain’s most highly decorated mule

3 min read

Jimson the mule with his handler, 1904

Working life

Jimson was a mule who worked for the British Army. He started his military career in India carrying ammunition across difficult terrain. He also served in South Africa during the Boer War (1899-1902).

Mules are a crossbreed of horses and donkeys. They are incredibly strong, hardworking and clever, and were often used as beasts of burden by the Army.

Queen’s South Africa Medal 1899-1902 awarded to Jimson the mule

Medals

Jimson was the proud recipient of the India Medal 1895-1902, as well as the two Boer War campaign medals. He remains the only mule to have been recognised in this way.

Animals weren't formally awarded medals, so it's likely that these were either specially made replicas or handed down to him by a soldier.

Jimson’s King’s South Africa Medal 1901-02

Jimson’s India Medal 1895-1902

Jimson the Mule and Bob the Baboon in 1904

Further honours

After his service in India and South Africa, Jimson earned a promotion. He became the mascot of 2nd Battalion, The Duke of Cambridge's Own (Middlesex Regiment).

When the soldiers of 2nd Battalion returned to England, they got special permission to bring Jimson with them. Quarantine rules usually prevented horses and mules returning from service overseas.

When Jimson died, one of his hooves was removed and turned into an inkwell. While relics like this may seem macabre today, it was fairly common practice at the time to use them as mementoes, often inscribed with sentimental dedications.

Inkwell made from Jimson's hoof, 1912

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