When equines mix it up

There are three species of equines surviving in the twenty-first century: horse, donkey, zebra, and they can all interbreed, producing sterile offspring. Recently a beautiful donkey-zebra mix was born in an Italian zoo (my friend Alicia Conroy alerted me of this). Mama was a donkey and daddy was a zebra, so the baby Ippo (below) is a zonkey, or a zedonk, zebonkey, zebronkey, zebrinny, zebrula, zebrass, and zedonk, zeedonk, even zebadonk. Whatever you call him, he’s darned cute.


Americans like to think that our country was settled by horses, but really the land was tamed by mules, which are created from daddy-donkeys and mama-horses.  In my experience, the male donkey is eager to jump on mares.  There are not so many mules these days as there used to be, but there are a lot at the Grand Canyon, and you they are sure-footed enough to carry you comfortably across rough ground down into the canyon.


I just love looking at mules.  Here’s a pair of gorgeous mules in harness:


And there is another creature you don’t see so often, a Hinny, which comes from a mama donkey and papa horse. From what I’ve heard, the male horse is less interested in the female donkey than vice versa, but a friend of our family Drew Anderson used to try to breed for Hinnies.


Of course any of these animals can be female or male. While the males are not fertile, most owners still castrate them, because of behavior issues.  Twice in the history of human observation, a jenny mule has given birth, and nobody knows what to call the baby. Some call it a chimera. Here is a photo of it nursing


And because the baby is so sweet, I want to show you another photo. You can read about this outrageous birth here: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=12260255


A zorse is the offspring of a male zebra and a female horse. This cross is also called a zebrula, zebrule, zebra mule or golden zebra.  They can look sort of horshish:


Or their coloring can be very exotic. A zony is the offspring of a zebra stallion and a pony mare


The rarer reverse pairing is sometimes called a horbra, hebra, zebrinny or zebret, and I can’t seem to find a photo of one of these.  I’ll just finish up here with my own donkey Don Quixote. I’m wearing my Southern Review T-shirt in honor of Jeanne Leiby (RIP).


OH, and let’s add one more, a photo of writer Claire Davis with her horse Scout:


About bonniejocampbell

I'm the author of ONCE UPON A RIVER, AMERICAN SALVAGE, MOTHERS TELL YOUR DAUGHTERS, Q ROAD, WOMEN & OTHER ANIMALS. I love Michigan, donkeys, black walnuts, blackcap raspberries, Flannery O'Connor.
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3 Responses to When equines mix it up

  1. Seth says:

    I must admit that it is a pet peeve of mine when people get mules & hinnies mixed up, or worse, don’t even know what a hinny is! I don’t even know how to talk to these folks.

  2. sassafras says:

    fascinating, exotic creatures, mules are good workers once you get them in the harness
    thanks for the information Bonnie

  3. Claire Davis says:

    Loved reading this—but have to admit, I feel a bit of a hinny myself, for knowing so little about these adorable hybrids. My fellow horse women are going to love this. But I need to get you out this way and pack out into the mountains for a day.
    Don Quixote, what a charmer!

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