Zonkey (sometimes spelled – Zonkie) is the genetic offspring of a zebra and a donkey. Sometimes, the term is used to refer to the offspring of a zebra and any other animal from the equine animal family.
Zonkey as a term has been regularly been used interchangeable with Zebroids, Zebmules, Zorses, Zedonks or Zetlands; although that shouldn’t be the case.
In most Zonkey Cases, the sire is almost always the Zebra. Cases of the Donkey as the Sire, while rare, do exist.
Zonkeys have existed since the 19th century with Charles Darwin even mentioning them in his research.
While Zebroids is the term used for all Zebra hybrids, Zonkey is (supposed to be) more specific to Zebra – Donkey hybrids.
Zorse is the term for a Zebra – Horse hybrid. Usually the type of Zebra or Horse breed is rarely specified.
With most Zebroids, there’s usually no distinction as to which Zebra is used.
Whenever Zebras are crossbred, they usually develop a form of dwarfism.
The breeding of Zonkeys never occurs naturally and leads to infertile offspring – as with most animal hybrids.
Other names for actual Zebra and Donkey hybrids include Zebrinny, Zebronkey, Zebrula, Zebonkey, Zebrass, Zedonk and surprisingly, many more.
While they both belong to the horse family, Zonkeys are actually a surprisingly rare category of Zebroids.
The Genetics of Zonkeys
It is actually surprising that Donkey and zebra are able to have hybrids despite the large difference in the number of the chromosomes.
The zebra’s chromosomes fall between 32 and 46, although this depends on the species; while the donkey has 62 chromosomes.
As a result, the resulting hybrid – the zonkey – sees its chromosomes falling somewhere in between. The difference in chromosomes is the primary reason why the hybrids are infertile.
As earlier stated, in most cases, the zebra is almost always the sire when it comes to the breeding of zonkeys. This is because when the reverse is the case – the lifespan of the hybrid is usually limited.
Most never make it to adulthood.
There are rare cases, however, like the Barbados hybrid.
This lends to the theory that not only should the sire for the zonkey hybrid be a Zebra but the male side should have a smaller number of chromosomes for the hybrid to be viable.
Zonkeys usually tend to exhibit traits of both its zebra and donkey parents. However, the traits they exhibit vary from zonkey to zonkey depending on how the genes from both parents are expressed.
The Zonkey tends to look more like the donkey but that is because zebroids usually tend to look like their non-zebra parent.
Although most zebroids are usually striped, to a certain extent, like the zebra.
The stripes rarely ever cover the whole boy and they are usually confined to the legs.
However, this varies depending on the animal. Sometimes, the stripes can be found on the parts of the neck and body as well.
Zonkeys usually have back stripes and belly stripes.
In other zebroids, if the parent which is not a zebra also has patterns – the offspring might acquire their patterns well.
In Zorses, the stripes from the zebra overlap with the color of the hybrid’s coat gotten from the parent horse. When breeding Zorses, horses with solid colors are favored but if the parent horse has multiple colors, then the hybrid may inherit the dominant color scheme of the parent horse.
Functions of Zonkeys
While Zonkeys are understandably rare, they are actually preferred over the Zebra when it comes to practical uses, for example – riding.
This is because of the difference of body shapes between the animals.
However, zonkeys (and most zebroids) tend to be more temperamental than a plain horse and as such difficult to control.
This is because even though donkeys are domesticated, zebras are not. As a result of this, Zebra can pass down their wild traits to the offspring.
You’d be surprised to hear that Zebroids have been around for a long time, even as far back as 1815 when a chestnut Arabian mare and a quagga stallion were mated by Lord Morton.
Their offspring was a female hybrid which resembled both the mare and the stallion.
This prompted interest from the likes of Professor Cossar Ewart and many more, resulting in the extensive world of Zebroids we have today.