Animal Hybrids Are Real and Often Incredible Animals
by Kaitlyn Culpepper
If you do a google image search for ‘animal hybrids’ a lot of really crazy photoshopped images pop up, depicting everything from a sharkgull to a cowgaroo. While these are fun to look at, there are incredible real hybrids out there that many people don’t even know about!
There is only one hybrid animal I would assume almost everyone has heard of, and that’s the mule. A mule is the offspring of a female horse and male donkey and is a valued farmland animal thanks to being longer-living than horses but faster and smarter than donkeys.
A less well known hybrid involving horses is the one between zebras and horses, called zorses. In fact, there are several different crosses between zebras and other equine animals, from zonies (zebra/pony) to zonkies (zebra/donkey.)
Cross-breeding these is quite a feat since they have different numbers of chromosomes, making the strange stripy offspring even more amazing.
It’s time for the ligers and tigons. A ligon has a lion as a father and a tiger for a mother, and being the largest feline in the world, can grow up to ten feet in length. Ligers take after their mothers in that they enjoy swimming while lions do not.
Tigons have tiger mothers and lion fathers which tend to make them a bit smaller than their cousins. There is also the Leopon, the result of breeding a female lion with a male leopard. A Leopon has a lion-like head with a body resembling more of a leopards.
Staying in the feline family, here’s a gorgeous hybrid that can be kept as a domestic pet: savannah cats. You take a domestic cat, often an exotic one such as an Egyptian Mau, Oriental Shorthair, or Bengal, and breed it with a type of African wild cat called a Serval.
The result is a pet growing in popularity thanks to its loyalty and trainability. Savannah cats are a lot bigger than the typical domestic breed, more social, and can be walked on a leash. This is the closest pet you can get to a wild cat without getting in trouble with the ASPCA.
This next one might be particularly exciting to animal-lovers out there. The grolar bear is what happens when cross breeding occurs between grizzly bears and polar bears, and is one of a very small number of hybrids known to occur in the wild without human intervention.
There have been predictions that global warming will increase the number of grolar bears out there, as ice caps melt and force polar bears to migrate away from the Arctic and into grizzly territory more often. One way or another, polar bears will live on.
Breeding camas ended up being a mistake, but one interesting to read about. A cama is the offspring of a camel and a llama, something that never could have happened without human help, considering one is native to Asia and north Africa, and the other is from South America.
The idea was to help create an animal with the strength of a camel, but that would be more cooperative and easily tamed. The result had a llama-like long, fluffy coat, was humpless, and had camel-like legs made for traversing the desert. Unfortunately, camas are known to be just as bad-tempered as their camel parents.
Lastly is a hybrid called the beefalo that will have you smacking your lips. A cross between American bison and domestic cattle, meat production was in mind with this one. Their meat is lower in fat and cholesterol than typical beef, and they cause less land damage than cattle herds.
Only a few grocery stores in Seattle carry beefalo meat right now, but the breeding practice could very well catch on. Beefalo breeder from Ellensburg, Mark Merril says, “It has a richer flavor and it’s milder and sweeter than beef…and more juicy.” (oddee.com)
There are, of course, more animal hybrids than just these ones that I found most intriguing. They range from the commercially sold blood parrot fish, to an unusual case in Botswana of a sheep-goat. If you’d like to learn more and are sitting at a computer or holding your phone, knowledge is at your fingertips!