Napoleon Dynamite might have popularized the liger, but Mexico has the “zonkey” just about covered. The rare animal – a hybrid of a zebra and a donkey – was recently born in a zoo in northern Mexico. It’s an extremely unusual occurrence, given that the genetics of it don’t exactly add up.
According to ABC News, the young zonkey calf, named Khumba, was born April 21 at Reynosa Zoo. Khumba’s mother, a zebra named Rayas, and its father, an albino donkey named Ignacio, used to visit each other every afternoon until one day Rayas became pregnant.
Khumba has characteristics of both his mother and his father, with a light brown coat and black-and-white-striped legs.
Only a handful of hybrid zebra-donkeys have been born throughout the world, including in Japan, China and the U.S. Last year, a zonkey was born in Florence and became a huge draw for tourists. The rarity of zonkeys is due to the fact that the chromosomes of donkeys and zebras are not compatible.
Donkeys, which are members of the horse family, have 64 chromosomes, whereas zebras have 44. The zonkey’s chromosomal count will be somewhere between these two numbers.
Scientists use to think that a zonkey was only possible if the father was a zebra, but Khumba proves that’s not the case.
A hybrid animal is one whose parentage comes from two separate species. They are usually, but not always, sterile. Other examples of hybrid species include mules, beefalo (a cross between a domestic cow and an American bison), and pumapard (a cross between a puma and a leopard.)
Watch Khumba in action in this video uploaded to YouTube: