Mules ease load for traditional Italian lumberjack

Mules may be seen as stubborn creatures by many, but not for Italian lumberjack, Andrea Filipponi.

His four mules are part of the family and they are also his livelihood.

Filipponi is the last "mularo," or mule handler, still working in Ferentillo, located in the lower Valnerina valley.

"They are part of the family, more than a family. Woe betide anyone who dares touch them! They are untouchable."

Filipponi uses his animal colleagues as four-legged trucks.

The mules Bimba, Castellana, Regina, and Mora, along with Filipponi's only horse, Zorro, can reach areas that machinery can't quite get to.

They can transport up to 440 lbs worth of logs on their backs each, from a wooded hill over 3,200 ft above the small town of Terria in Italy's Umbria region.

"First we come here to cut trees with the chainsaws then we collect the wood and, with the help of mules, we transport it. In winter we cut the trees and in summer until October we transport the wood until the start of the new cutting season."

Filipponi followed in his father's footsteps.

He wakes up early every morning at five, to feed and brush the mules, before leaving for the physically taxing job of collecting timber.

Although muleshave a reputation for stubbornness, they are quick learners and faster than their horse or donkey counterparts.

But the use of mules is slowly diminishing regardless, with machinery often taking their place.

"This tradition ends with us. No one in the future will produce such 'machines'."