Mud peeling is a common phenomenon whereby horizontal cracks propagate parallel to the surface of a drying clay. Differential stresses then cause the layer of clay above the crack to curl up to form a mud peel. By treating the clay as a poroelastic solid, we analyze the peeling phenomenon and show that it is caused by the gradient in tensile stress at the surface of the clay, analogously to the spalling of thermoelastic materials. For a constant water evaporation rate at the clay surface we derive equations for the depth of peeling and the time of peeling as functions of the evaporation rate. Our model predicts a simple relationship between the radius of curvature of a mud peel and the depth of peeling. The model predictions are in agreement with the available experimental data. Copyright 2011 by the American Geophysical Union.