|Zebra - Donkey Hybrid|
Common Names: Zebroid, Zebrule, Zebra mule, Zonkey, Zorse and zedonk and other variations dependant on the equines that were crossed
A zebroid is the result of a cross between a zebra and any other equine (horse-like animal). The zebroid term is very generic, referring to a great variety of hybrid animals. In most cases, the sire (male) is a zebra, with the female being a horse, a donkey etc.
Zebras rarely occur naturally and are typically the result of human intervention. In South Africa, they are known to occur naturally in areas where zebras and donkeys are found in close proximity to each other.
As aforementioned, a Zebroid is a very generic term used for all hybrids between a zebra and an equine. Furthermore, each hybrid type is named differently. The different types of offspring between a zebra and an equine are referred to as following:
- A zorse, if the mother is a horse (also called zebrula, zebrule, zebra mule or golden zebra)
- A zony, if the mother is a pony
- Zetland, the offspring between a male zebra and a female Shetland (small pony breed)
- Horbra, if the father is a horse (also called hebra, zebrinny and zebret)
- Zonkey, for offsprings produced by a donkey and a zebra. Other names used incluide zebonkey, zebronkey, zebrinny, zebrass, zedonk and zeedonk.
Most zebroids look like their equine parent, with zebra-like patterns on their body. Usually, these stripes don't cover the entire body but only a part of it. In most cases, the stripes are confined in the legs and/or other parts like the neck and torso.
Video showing a zebroid
If the equine comes with some kind of a pattern (like the Pinto horse), there is a high chance that the pattern will be inherited to the offspring. In most of these hybrids, the zebra stripes are confined in the non white areas of the animal.
The term "golden zebra" is used when the offspring has a zebra-like black-on-bay or black-on-chestnut pattern that somehow resembles the now extinct quagga (an extinct subspecies of the plains zebra).
|Photo of a female quagga in London Zoo, 1870|
Zonkey hybrids commonly have one stripe dorsally (on their back) and one stripe ventrally (in the belly).
Similarly to most animal hybrids, zebroids are in most cases sterile.
In 1815, Lord Morton (George Douglas, 16th Earl of Morton,) mated a quagga stallion to a chestnut Arabian mare. The resulting hybrid was a female which greatly resembled both parents. This provoked the interest of Cossar Ewart, Professor of Natural History at Edinburgh (1882–1927) and keen geneticist. Over the next years, Ewart crossed a zebra stallion with pony mares to investigate the now discredited theory of telegony, or paternal impression.
Telegony hypothesized that the offspring can inherit the characteristics of a previous mate of the female parent. If that was true, the child of a widowed or remarried woman might partake traits of her previous husband(s).
In his Origin of Species (1859), Charles Darwin mentioned four colored drawings of hybrids between a donkey and zebra. He also wrote: "In Lord Morton's famous hybrid from a chestnut mare and male quagga, the hybrid, and even the pure offspring subsequently produced from the mare by a black Arabian sire, were much more plainly barred across the legs than is even the pure quagga.".
Furthermore, in his book "The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication", Darwin described a hybrid donkey-zebra specimen in the British Museum as being dappled on its flanks. Finally, he mentioned a "triple hybrid, from a bay mare, by a hybrid from a male donkey and female zebra" displayed at London Zoo. This would have required the zebroid sire to be fertile, which is highly unlikely.
During the Second Boer War ( also known as South African War), the Boers crossed the Chapman's zebra with a pony breed, to produce an animal for transport work, mainly for hauling guns. A specimen was captured by British forces and presented to King Edward VII by Lord Kitchener, and was photographed by W S Berridge.
|Somali ass (left) & Grevy's zebra|
Interest for zebroids continued in the 1970s. A New York Times article from 16 June 1973, mentioned the birth of a hybrid between a zebra and a donkey at the Jerusalem Zoo. The officials named it "hamzab". In the 1970s, the Colchester Zoo in England bred zedonks, at first by accident but later in an effort to create a disease-resistant riding and draft animal. The experiments were discontinued when zoos became more conservation-minded. A number of resulting hybrids were kept at the zoo with the last one dying in April 2009.
Zebroids in recent years
Today, zebroid hybrids are mainly bred as riding and draft animals, and as circus and zoo attractions.
Zorses are bred in Africa and used for trekking on Mount Kenya. The zebra parent gives resistance to the nagana pest disease (Animal trypanosomiasis).
A zony was born at Eden Ostrich World, Cumbria, England in 2001 after a zebra was left in a field with a Shetland pony. It was referred to as a Zetland.
Most zebroids are the result of a zebra stalion and an equine mare, however in 2005, a Burchell's zebra named Allison produced a zonkey called Alex, sired by a donkey at Highland plantation in the parish of Saint Thomas, Barbados. Alex was born in 21 April 2005 and is probably the first zonkey born in Barbados.
In 2007, at the Stukenbrock Zoo, Germany a stallion, Ulysses, and a zebra mare, Eclipse, produced a zebroid named Eclyse, displaying an unusually patchy color coating.
|Eclyse, a zorse at the Stukenbrock Zoo, Germany|
The Wild Animal Safari in Springfield, Missouri, and its sister location in Pine Mountain, Georgia, have several zedonks, as of 31 March 2010.
Zebroid at the wild Animal Safari Park in Pine Mountain Georgia
Video after Zony's birth
A Zonkey, Ippo was born 21 July 2013 in an animal reserve at Florence, Italy.
References & Further Reading
- "Zorse Breed Description". Breeding References. EquinePost.
- B Megersa, D Biffa, B Kumsa (2007). A mysterious zebra-donkey hybrid (zedonk or zonkey) produced under natural mating: A case report from Borana, southern Ethiopia Animal Production Research Advances DOI: 10.4314/apra.v2i3.36328
- BENIRSCHKE K, LOW RJ, BROWNHILL LE, CADAY LB, & DEVENECIA-FERNANDEZ J (1964). CHROMOSOME STUDIES OF A DONKEY-GREVY ZEBRA HYBRID. Chromosoma, 15, 1-13 PMID: 14171168