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: