This Is What Happens When A Zebra And A Donkey Have A Baby

Love is blind, but it doesn't need to be when zebras are involved. Even Charles Darwin acknowledged that zebras have sexy stripes. Well, he didn't exactly say that, but in The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex, he did quote William Burchell, who marveled at a zebra herd: "Their sleek ribs glistened in the sun, and the brightness and regularity of their striped coats presented a picture of extraordinary beauty, in which probably they are not surpassed by any other quadruped." Darwin argued that even though hard evidence was lacking, it was reasonable to think those striking stripes likely helped the "beautiful zebra" attract mates. 

That sex appeal isn't limited to other zebras, though. Occasionally, donkeys can't hold their horses around those striped seducers, and jungle fever ensues.

Now, you might wonder what a zebra would see in a donkey. By comparison, they aren't much to look at. Except for the teeth — donkeys are dentally well-endowed, so a zebra might enjoy looking those gift horses in the mouth. Plus, they have a great sense of humor, and have been compared to comedy legend Eddie Murphy. However, the difficulty lies in family planning. According to the University of Miami, donkeys boast 62 chromosomes while zebras, which come in three species, have between 32 and 46 chromosomes. Genetically that doesn't seem to add up. But sometimes hybrid babies happen, and when they do, it's magical.

Doing it donkey style

In April 2020, the Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya welcomed a biological anomaly into the world. As described in a press release, a maintenance team spotted a female zebra with an unusual looking foal. While young zebras are white with brown stripes that darken, this young'un "was suspiciously light on stripes and overwhelmingly tawny in color." 

It didn't take long to figure out what happened. Twelve months earlier, a stray zebra wandered out of Tsavo East National Park and into a nearby community, where she was welcomed by the local cattle herd. Looking back, it seems that while the zebra was hanging out with the cows, she also experienced some ins and outs with a donkey. The resulting baby was a zonkey, which "combines the sturdy body of its donkey sire and the striped legs of its zebra mother." The zonkey seems healthy, but due to the genetic incompatibilities of its parents, it probably can't produce offspring.