Hybrid Animals

Ligers—the result of crossbreeding lions and tigers—have roamed animal preserves and sanctuaries for years. It wasn’t until recently, however, that these intriguing animals gained wide fame—thanks in part to the film Napoleon Dynamite.

In one of his many memorable lines, Napoleon declared the liger “pretty much my favorite animal.” He didn’t mention the zorse, however, which is produced when a zebra and a horse mate.

Ligers and Zorses, but no Ponkey

Not all animals can be crossbred. You’ll never see a ponkey (pig and monkey). In general, the two animals must belong to the same genus and share the same number of chromosomes. Chromosomes are threadlike strands that carry genetic information. The offspring of crossbred animals share traits from both parents. For example, the liger inherits a full mane from the lion and stripes from the tiger. Hybrid animals are usually born sterile; they cannot produce offspring.

Scientists Are Skeptical

A donkey / zebra hybrid (called a 'Zeedonk' by Colchester Zoo in England and a called a 'zonkey' or 'zedonk' elsewhere). Photo by sannse, Colchester Zoo, 2 June 2004.This is an image of a donkey/zebra hyrbrid, called a "Zeedonk."
Hybrid animals are certainly interesting to look at, but some scientists think cross-breeding species is a bad idea. Not all of these animals survive to adulthood, and they are at risk for being born with genetic defects. In addition, crossbreeding is simply unnatural—it typically does not occur in the wild, only in captivity.

Here are some examples of animals that have been crossbred:

  • Beefalo or cattalo: American bison and cow
  • Cama: camel and llama
  • Grolar or pizzly: grizzly bear and polar bear
  • Leopon: leopard and lion
  • Liger: male lion and female tiger
  • Mule: male donkey and female horse
  • Tigon: male tiger and female lion
  • Wolphin: false killer whale and a dolphin
  • Yakalo: yak and buffalo
  • Zeedonk: zebra and donkey
  • Zorse: zebra and horse

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