The Zonkey and 9 More Species Hybrid Species (Photos)

What happens when you mix a donkey with a zebra?

Forget the pomsky, pixie-bobs, and all those single-breed animals: hybrids, in all their mixed glory, are the species du jour. This week, the Internet couldn't stop gushing over the improbable birth of adorable zebra-donkey mix, Ippo. But this striped fellow isn't the only two-species animal to melt our hearts. Lest we forget the grolar bear, wholphin, or leopon, here's a rundown on our favorite hybrid beasts.

Carlo Ferraro/Corbis


Hi, Ippo! The result of an illicit love affair between a female donkey and a fence-hopping male zebra, this aborably striped zonkey was born in Italy earlier this week. The rare liaison happened when a passionate rescue zebra climbed over the enclosure built to separate him from his neighbor, an endangered female donkey, on a farm outside Florence. Zonkeys, also known as zedonks or zebroids, are rare, but have been bred since the 1800s and were even studied by Charles Darwin.

AP Photo


Napoleon Dynamite was right: these are pretty much the coolest animals, although they aren't known for their "skills and magic," and they don't exactly look like his drawing. Crossed between a male lion and a tigress, they are artificially bred because the two felines don't overlap habitats in the wild. They grow larger than both a lion and tiger, and were first known in 19th-century India. There are some famous ligers, including Hercules and Sinbad.

AP Photo


It’s a whale! No, it’s a dolphin! Scratch that. It’s a wholphin—part false killer whale and part Atlantic bottlenose dolphin. The only known wholphin, Kekaimalu, was born in 1986. She even gave birth in 2005 to a calf that was one quarter whale and three-quarters dolphin.


For those of us who enjoy eating beef but don’t want the guilt of eating all that cholesterol and saturated fat, science has the answer: the beefalo. According to the American Beefalo Association, the hybrid offers the best of both worlds—the flavor of beef and the leanness of buffalo.  Beefalo are also more hearty creatures, live longer and are better able to resist diseases than traditional cattle.


A cross between male donkey and a female horse, mules have been around for thousands of years stretching all the way back to ancient Egypt, where mules were the preferred pack animal. George Washington was the first American mule breeder and asked King Charles of Spain to send the finest breeding stock. The king complied, sending Washington three specimen in 1785. Mules were instrumental in helping American settlers explore the West, they helped to build roads, railways, dams and canals at the beginning of the 20th century.


Camels are known for their spitting, so scientists in Dubai decided to make a friendlier version. Enter the cama – the offspring of a male camel and a female llama. The cama has the best of both animals: the strength of a camel and the high wool-producing properties of a llama. Since camels are anywhere from three to six times heavier than a llama, the only way to produce a cama is through artificial insemination.


A wolfdog is exactly what it sounds like—the combo of a wolf and a dog. The species has been around the Americas for at least 10,000 years, though the first documented intentional breeding didn’t take place until the 1920s. At the end of the 20th century, the USDA estimated there were at least 300,000 wolfdogs in the United States.

Iron Age Pig

When Hollywood directors need a wild boar, they usually settle for an Iron Age pig. A cross breed between a boar and domestic pig, the Iron Age variety looks like their larger, more obstinate parent, but are in fact easier to handle. And they’re pretty cute.

Grolar Bear

Chalk the grolar bear up to climate change. Part polar bear and part grizzly bear, the grolar is larger than a grizzly but smaller than a polar bear. As the Arctic sea ice melts, polar bears are becoming more and more stranded on land in the summer giving them more of a chance to meet grizzly bears. Researchers believe that we’ll be seeing more and more grolars in the coming years.


When male leopards and female lions get together the result is the leopon. They get the shape of their heads from their kingly roots, but usually have the long, lean body of the leopard. The first documented breeding of a leopon occurred in India at the beginning of the 20th century.