Love conquers all – even if you’re from two different species. So it was for a female donkey and a male zebra who decided to mate and bred an aptly named “zonkey.”
The rare zebra-donkey mix was born in an animal reserve in Florence, Italy, on Monday. Named Ippo, the foal comes from an endangered donkey breed and a rescued zebra that live in a failing zoo, ANSA reports.
"Ippo is the only one of his kind in Italy," Serena Aglietti, whose family runs the animal reserve, said. Other zonkeys are believed to exist in Germany, China and the United States.
Aglietti said she didn’t intend to breed the two animals. They were kept them in separate enclosures, but somehow Martin the zebra climbed over his fence to find Jade the donkey, she told Italian news outlet Firenze Today. The nursey-owner says Ippo is playful and has a soft coat, striped legs, and the ears and head of a donkey.
In 2010 a zonkey was born at a wildlife park in Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Georgia. The owner had a handful of female zebras but only one male. They lived in the same enclosure, but this was the first time the owner saw them mate, RTE reports. They named the zonkey "Pippi Longstocking," after the fictional children's book character known for wearing striped stockings.
"I just really couldn't believe it," C.W. Wathen, the park’s owner, told 11alive.com.
The Zonkey is one of many zebra hybrids, as the striped animals belonging to the genus Equus have been known to cross-breed with ponies, horses and giraffes, producing offspring known as zony, zorse and okapi, respectively. The hybrid offspring are almost always sterile.
Hybrid zebras, known as zebroids, were originally bred as pack animals in Africa. Less likely than horses or donkeys to get certain diseases like sleeping sickness, they have the look of a zebra but the temperament of a domesticated horse or donkey, Mental Floss reports.