The hybridization of animals is not always by accident. Sometimes, two parent species will be conscripted into mating by breeders and the like. But whatever the way in which these hybrids come about, many of them emerge looking extremely bizarre. Here is a list of some of the oddest, most peculiar, and downright baffling hybrids we’ve found to exist.
The zonkey is an amalgamation of the zebra and donkey. Because both are different varieties of equine, breeding them together is not too difficult a challenge. The only problem, as we’ve seen across the board, is that the two will not breed under natural conditions. You could say the chemistry doesn’t come naturally.
The keepers and scientists at Chyulu National Park in Kenya noticed a young foal running beside a zebra mother. But this foal looked a bit different than other zebra foals.
The park isn’t your traditional habitat-behind-glass zoo. While there are some divisions, many of the animals can interact freely. That the zebra came in contact with a donkey admirer is clear to see.
Amazingly, the zonkey retains a few of the coat qualities of both the donkey and the zebra. This includes the black and white stripes common to the zebra. Also, however, as is common to most hybrids, the zonkey is not often a viable offspring. It cannot, in other words, produce any young. Sorry pal, but your gene line ends with you.
This type of event is the result of their circumstances, and a donkey and zebra would not cross paths in the wild.
The tigon is the converse of a liger: instead of resulting from a male lion and female tiger, it results from a female lion and a male tiger. These interesting hybrids, contra to ligers (which we’ll get to in a bit), don’t grow to be quite as large then the pieces of the parents are reversed.
Also, they tend to maintain the traits of both these creatures to a certain degree. Some have a mildly-sized mane, while others have none at all. They often have the sandy base coat coloring of a lion, with a faded stripe pattern of a tiger.
Unlike some of the hybrids on this list, tigons can sometimes produce cubs of their own.
It’s feasible, then, that the hybrid offspring could thrive into the future as a solitary species – at least within the confines of a national park or museum.
In the wild however, it would not be well adapted to the environments of neither the lion nor the tiger.
That’s because there is no overlap between the two Big Cats’ natural habitat.
Whales and dolphins, in case you were unaware, are extremely closely related:
- Both belong to the cetacean family.
- Both have lungs.
- Both came from land-dwelling mammals that got a little too comfortable with the sea.
The match-up was created by the rare breeding of the common bottlenose dolphin and false killer whale.
It is actually the whale that is commonly mislabeled – killer whales (or orcas) are actually the largest members of the dolphin family. It’s not a whale at all!
With that in mind, it makes a little more sense that it can successfully breed with another variety of dolphin.
The first recorded wholpin was born in Tokyo, Japan, at a SeaWorld park in 1981.
The first few wholpin calfs died fairly early. There seemed to be some confusion with the mother about whether she was supposed to nurse it. However, one calf born in 2004 is alive and well today.
Kawili Kai, the 17-year-old wholphin, is on display at the Sea Life Park Hawaii. Compared to other dolphins, this wholphin is large. At one year of age, the dolphin is already the size of a full-grown bottlenose. The animal is only expected to grow with age. Either way, if you want to see the thing, you’ll have to travel on over to Hawaii.
4. Savannah Cat
The savannah cat, despite its name, is not the result of roaming the African savannah.
Instead, it is the result of a domestic cat interbreeding with a serval, a species endemic to a few select regions of the African Sahara. The serval is a medium-sized wild African cat with beautiful cheetah-like spots and with large ears. The were the qualities breeders were hoping to achieve with a domestic cat breed.
The resulting offspring has tall springy ears and the stunning coat of a serval. However, some of the offspring had variation of the fur markings. Some had more marbled coat patterned, a cinnamon-like blended color, and even hints of lilac.
What’s even more fun about this species is that it has many characteristics you would normally associate with a dog.
It likes to play fetch, run around and play, and jump into the water (a feat most cats stray from). Ultimately, the creature is a superspecies.
The hybrid, because of its popularity with breeders, has been recognized as its own species. It is officially accepted as a championship cat breed by the International Cat Association.
The liger is arguably the most well known hybrid that exists. It gained quite some notoriety when the internet first caught wind that such a super-cat existed.
Like most the animals on this list, the species does not exist in the wild. Only in artificial conditions in places like zoos and wildlife sanctuaries has a liger ever been brought to life.
The liger gain a lot of attention because of its tremendous size and muscular build.
An interesting characteristic of the liger is that they grow to be much larger than either its father lion or its mother tiger that birthed it. This is the result of the common hybrid gigantism.
They tend to inherit the social temperament of the lion – a pack animal. Tigers are generally loners. However, they are like their mothers in that they like to swim, which as any cat owner will tell you, not all cats like to do. But tigers are unique in that way.
Unfortunately for the liger, they grow to such a mass (they can grow to weigh around 1,200 lbs.) that their body cannot support their size.
Ultimately, the sheer size of the beast becomes too much for their pumping heart to bare, and they die as a result.
6. Pizzly bear
The pizzly bears are the result of grizzly bears and polar bears getting a little closer than once believed possible.
Unlike other hybrids, these have been found in the wild. They have also been born in captivity.
And, also like a few other hybrids, these species are often the result of the stresses of climate change. As things get warmer, Grizzley bears, who are well adapted to cold environments, but not Arctic cold climates, are able to go further north and survive. In the wild, polar bears and grizzly bears, though usually for the most part separated, do have neighboring natural habitats.
When the ice sheets that polar bears normally use to hunt and fish begin to wither, the polar bears tend to spend more of their time on land.
The result is, the two bears seem to have come in contact with each-other with increasing frequency over the years.
There have been eight official DNA confirmations of pizzly bears, all of which appear to have descended from the same female polar bear.
Those that researchers have seen up close have the thick, white signature coat of the polar bear, but the claws, humped back, and brown patches of fur like the Grizzly bear.
The leopon is a hybrid of a jaguar and a lion. This is staggering, considering that jaguars are considerably smaller and weigh substantially less (50 to 200 lbs.) than lions (200 to 550 lbs.).
For the two to meet and breed, a very particular set of circumstances must be in place. Namely, they have to be in a captive, artificial environment. They are the product of a male leopard and a female lion.
Though one has never been spotted in the wild and is widely considered an unlikely natural combo, there is some overlap between these two cats’ natural habitat ranges.
While some have speculated that these animals exist in the wild, there is no scientific evidence to support this conclusion.
Those observed in captivity had the signature spotting of the leopard, with the facial scruff and tuffed tail of a lion.
If you want to find these furry little creatures, you will have to find them in an animal conservatory somewhere. And even then, the likelihood that you will find one is extraordinarily low. If you wish to find one in the wild, we bid you luck.
A zorse is one of the animals you can get from breeding a horse female and a zebra male.
Amazingly, the animal comes complete with a mixed phenotype, meaning it can express different traits from either parent if different ways. The phenotype of the zorse pictured below blends together the most notable elements of the zebra (its black and white stripes) with those of a horse (the flat coat).
Interestingly, in contrast with the giantism commonly seen in ligers, the zorse is also subject to dwarfism.
Zebras have also successfully been cross bred with ponies.
This is common in the world of hybrids, since the development of the animal doesn’t unfold normally. The animals can still breed, however, because they are not all that distant evolutionarily (they are even a part of the same genus).
Like mules, they are unable to procreate on their own, so the buck stops there.
This doesn’t suggest that you should. Such a life confines one to the solitude of a conservation site.
No, not a misspelling of “Jeep,” the Geep is the result of a goat and sheep getting a little too comfortable. It’s not that surprising this combo came about considering cheeps and goats are often held together.
Sheeps and goats are interesting in that in lab settings, their genetic materials can be combined on a cellular level. Meaning, rather than taking certain traits from mom and others from dad, they may have expressions of both in one trait.
In Scottsdale, Arizona, one such geep exists. Named “Butterfly,” the baby geep is small, cute and ready to be petted. The creature can be viewed as a regular addition to the Scottsdale’s petting zoo.
Some have shed skepticism on Butterfly’s genetic parents. Some hypothesize that the nascent geep might be the result of two different (and quite average) sheep parents.
This hypothesis doesn’t happen to account for the abnormal dwarfism present in Butterfly, or the unusual oddities of its coat.
Because goats and cheep don’t vary significantly in size, especially comparing to the differences in size of other parents on this list, there doesn’t seem to be an especially high frequency of sizing abnormalities (such as the liger or the zorse).
Either way, the thing is cute and you should probably go give it a visit.
10. Blacktip shark
Sometimes a hybrid species is not the result of forlorn artificial environments, but instead the result of minor adaptations to a changing environment and there for exist in the wild.
The latter scenario seems to be the case for the blacktip shark of Australia.
Blacktip sharks are the result of two other sharks (the common blacktip shark and the Australian blacktip shark) breeding and making babies.
Unlike some of the hybrids that have been attempted in captivity, blackfin pups are not only viable at birth, but can successfully go on to reproduce themselves. That means sharks are currently branching into a new species.
Scientists speculate that the reason for these biological mashups is an adaptation to shifting environmental conditions.
Because of a rise in global sea temperature, the blacktip shark is suffering added stresses from the oceanic environment. Breeding with other closely-related species might be a way in which the shark is changing to adapt.
The cama is a hybrid that you might not have suspected of existing. It is the result of a camel breeding with a llama.
The amalgamation is possible because of the closely-related nature of the two parent species. Despite their outer appearance, the two are surprisingly closely related. And now that we really think about it, they look kind of similar, save a few humps, height, and coat lengths.
The hump isn’t something that separates them too much.
Among these differences include things such as the woolly coat (unique to the llama) who often live in colder, mountainous climates, the humps (signature to the camel), and a suite of other characteristics that have adapted the species to different environments.
Despite these ostensibly drastic differences, the two species have been able to interbreed, yielding the fun and indelible cama you see here.
Narlugas are, as you probably guessed, the result of narwhals breeding with beluga whales.
The first confirmed narluga whale was one that was caught by an Inuit hunter. That means this animal hybrid happened all on its own in nature.
Unfortunately, the reasons for this breeding are thought to be climate change.
As the climate changes and species populations become stressed (due to everything from increased acidification to the spread of invasive species), the habitat of these cetaceans become more overlapped as their habitats contract.
When the species are pressed into closer quarters because of stressful oceanic conditions, they tend to turn to desperate measures.
If their populations dwindle, they begin to turn to other closely-related creatures of the sea as mating partners in order to keep the species going. While this strategy might temporarily boost populations, it is ultimately detrimental to the longevity of the species as standalone.
If the conditions that drew them together persist, or ever escalate, there two whale species could eventually merge into one over time,
13. The jaglion
The jaglion, a creature not as contemptible as the killer bee, was created through the selective breeding of a jaguar and lion. Apparently, we pretty much want to see what every kind of big cat would look like if it is crossed with a lion.
While the animal is exceptionally rare, a few have been birthed in different animal sanctuaries across the globe. At the Bear Creek Sanctuary in Ontario, Canada, for instance, such a pair has been birthed.
The duo—named Jahzara and Tsunami, respectively—were born into the sanctuary and have lived there ever since.
Because the animals don’t exist in the wild (and the animals wouldn’t breed if they lived on their own given the differences in their natural habitates), they will stay in the sanctuary to remain cared for by the sanctuary and the people who work there.
As often in the case with hybrids of animals that may be from the same family, but are adapted to highly different environments, the jaglions themselves are not able to reproduce.
If you’re looking for a cuter hybrid than the killer bee, these jaglions might be for you.
The wolfdog is, as the name suggests, the result of a wolf and dog having become passionately involved.
The hybridization is possible due to the shared relationship within the canine family. The relationship can exist between many different types of wolf and dog species, including the gray wolf, eastern timber wolf, and red wolf.
Dog species seem to mix better compared to many of the other hybrids on this list. While new breeds have been created in captivity, researchers believe that various kinds of dogs have mateed naturally, including wolves and coyotes.
The species are afforded this breeding variability because of their phylogenetic closeness. Because dog domestication (the turning of wolves into domestic dogs) only happened a few thousand years ago, the animals have not been changed so much as to alter their ability to interbreed.
While the behavior of the animals would separate them in the wild, artificial breeding would pose no barrier. In fact, stray dogs and wild varieties like coyotes and wolves have been known to matee.
Alaskan Malamutes are known to have high amounts of wolfdog present in their DNA. Wolfdogs have been bred with everything from poodles to German Shepherds.
The beefalo is one of the most confounding creatures the world has ever seen. It contains equal parts buffalo and cow. Disturbingly, it tends to look like both.
While the beefalo is like a cow but substantially larger, it also maintains a few qualities that make it unique. One of these happens to be a less detrimental effect on the environment. That is because the natural grazing migrations of buffalo are good for the environment, and they emit fewer greenhouse gases that cattle does now.
Interestingly, mating a domestic cow with a buffalo steer proved challenging. However, when a domestic bull and female bison cow were mated, the resulting offspring were not only viable, but able to reproduce on their own.
The beefalo is also one of the earliest hybrids that we know to exist.
The thing came about around 200 years ago, when farmers and the like were experimenting with different breeding tactics.
A hinny is the result of a female donkey mating with a male horse. This combination is less common than the mule. Amazingly, the result of this different match-up of parents is somewhat easy to see.
The animal is substantially smaller than its counterpart the mule, which is the infertile offspring of a female horse and male donkey. But it is also much stronger pound for pound.
The hinny has stronger legs and a more robust mane than its counterpart the mule.
Still, the mule has a capacity to grow much larger than any hinny could ever grow. There have only been a handful of documented cases of mules reproducing successfully. With hinnies, there has only been one.
Scientists have speculated that this might be due to the differing womb sizes of the donkeys and horses. Donkeys have smaller wombs, so their infants will be smaller, like the hinny. Horses have larger wombs, so their infants can grow larger, like a mule.
Sometimes hybrids are utilized by a culture because they are better, in some respects, than the unedited parent species. With the Dzo, that appears to be the case. The hybrid is considered better because it produces a different type of meat and milk. The stuff has become a delicacy of sorts in Tibet and Mongolia.
A dzo is technically a male offspring resulting from a yak-domestic cow mating. A female is referred to as a dzomo.
The dzomo, (the female), is fertile and able to reproduce.
A dzo, (the male) on the other hand, is born sterile.
The female dzomo’s offspring, when mated with a cow or yak, can reportedly produce offspring that are fully yak or fully cow.
These hybrids are also stronger than either cows or yaks, the two parent species of the Dzo.
They are different, then, in ways substantial enough to measure, from the species that birthed them. Because of their strength, the animals are often also used for packing. Farmers will utilize their strength to help them move and ship small amounts of cargo.
The mulard is an odd duck. Resulting from the mating of a Muscovy drake (the term for a male duck) and Pekin duck, the mulard exists as an entirely new and totally novel species.
While like other organisms created in the artificial conditions of the conservation site, they provide an interesting insight into how animals that would not normally breed exist when they do.
Unlike other hybrids, the mulard is often bred for a purpose: meat production. For this reason, the reverse parent pairing of this species (a Pekin father and Muscovy mother) is less common because the offspring tend to be smaller.
The duck has a higher yield of meat, making it the preferred breed for farmers and the like. If you enjoy eating foie gras, you might want to appreciate this result of the animal breeding world. It is responsible for the duck that you enjoy eating.
The mule is one of the most well-known hybrids that exists.
It is used in intro biology classes everywhere to help discuss one of the primary tenets of speciation (those of the so-called post-zygotic barrier), but also as a sign of what can happen when two animals of different species mate together.
The result, in the case of the horse and donkey, is a mule.
When a mule is created, the resulting animal is incapable of breeding, most of the time. There have beeen live births born from a mule mother, but they are few and far inbetween. It is generally not worth risking the mule mother to a pregnancy with low viability odds.
Because of the differences in chromosomal makeup of the two animals (horses have 64 chromosomes while donkeys have 62), the mule does not exist as an organism that can produce more progeny.
Mule are preferred over their donkey parents because they exhibit the docile, pliable temperament of the horse. Donkeys are famously stubborn.
The horse and the donkey are, as some might say, a complete dead-end.
20. Blood parrot cichlid
The blood parrot cichlid is a hybrid of two other fish species: the Midas, a species localized to Costa Rica and Nicaragua, and the readhead cichlid.
Unfortunaetly, the results are rather sad. These hybrids combination of features from their parents compromise their ability to survive. Despite its splendid outer colors, it doesn’t have too large a mouth. Because of this, it has trouble feeding itself.
And, in case you were unaware, if you can’t feed yourself, you won’t live too long into the future.
And because of this, the blood parrot cichlid is not really a viable hybrid. So while you may breed it for its pretty outer colors, the thing won’t survive, thrive, and proliferate. Breeding the fish also comes complete with a whole suite of ethical dilemmas. Many aquarium enthusiasts boycott shops that sell this hybrid fish.
But we’ll leave those for another time…
21. Rhino hybrid
Black and white rhinos are different species. This hasn’t, however, stopped them from interbreeding. While under normal circumstances, the two are separated by numerous geological barriers, they can breed if thrown into the same environment. There are some fringe parts of their habitats that overlap, so it is believed they could breed in the wild.
The result of this combination is a rhino that looks a little different than either of its parent species.
Unfortunately, the rhinos are rapidly declining in numbers. In captivity, the white rhino in particular are reluctant to breed. In the wild, the Southern white rhino was declared extinct in the wild. Its few remaining members are privately owned or on sanctuaries.
The black rhino, for instance, is considered critically endangered. Three subspecies of the horned animal have gone extinct already. If we’d like to keep these different rhino species around, we have to take special care to ensure that they can survive and reproduce.
In 2019, scientists successfully produced viable rhino embryos via IVF.
22. Red-grey kangaroo
There are many kinds of kangaroos.
The red-grey kangaroo is a hybrid that comes from the red kangaroo and the great grey kangaroo (not too surprising)
While both parent species are technically kangaroos, both are considered disparate enough to be classified as different species. But, like with the other hybrids on this list, that hasn’t stopped them from breeding.
When you mix two kangaroos of different colors, you tend to get one with a different color. And that is what we tend to have here.
While rare in nature, the red-grey kangaroo can appear under the artificial conditions of the lab. And here is where it will stay, since the animals rarely interact in nature, and don’t often yield viable progeny.
However, it has been done before, whereas other types of kangaroo hybrids have never never successfully been able to reproduce, and sometimes, it takes more than one try.
23. Human-pig hybrids
Some of the hybrids that have been created are considered abominable. The human-pig hybrids (what scientists call a “chimera”) created at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California are one such potential abomination. The act of their creation received no public funding because of the stigma of creating such hybrids, so they had to conduct the experiments with private funding.
The aim of the Salk Institute’s experimentation was not as bleak and twisted as it may first appear. Their aim was to create organs that were less likely to be rejected by the host body that receives them. Organ donation lists are incredibly long anf the process of matching can take some time too. The goal was to produce viable organs for transplant,
By implanting human cells into the pig embryo, this possibility of non-rejected organs becomes far more viable. None of the hybrids grew beyond the embryo.
24. Killer bees
Much to the chagrin of humanity, killer bees were invented. That’s right – these especially aggressive variety of bees was created by people. And, once created, they thrived.
In the 1950s, scientists were looking for ways in which to increase honey production and could survive in more tropical, humid climates.
To do so, they decided to breed a few different species of bee: the honey bee (Apis mellifera) and the African bee (Apis mellifera scutellate). The African bee is known to take over other species of bee colony, destroying them.
Originating from Rio Claro, Brazil, the bees eventually broke loose. What’s worse is that the bees had developed—along with an increased ability to produce honey—an amplified tendency to defend the colony.
Their venom is stronger than that of the European honey bee, and they have been known to swarm people and animals.
And with this came the notorious aggression with which the bees are associated. This hybrid is one that you definitely want to avoid.
Coyotes, whether you knew it or not, are the result of hybridization. The furry little animal is derived from a little bit of frisky business between wolves and dogs.
While the amount of wolf or dog varies by geographic region, the fact that hybridization existed at some point in the coyote’s past is beyond doubt.
Eastern coyotes are one of the more salient of the hybridized coyotes. Part of the reason that this species resorted to such hybridization is thought to be because of dwindling populations. With sparsity often comes desperation, and this desperation may have led dogs and wolves and other coyotes to mate beyond their species boundaries. The result is the cute little pooch we see here.
A pumapard, as you may have guessed by the name, is a cross between a puma and a leopard.
Unlike other crosses on this list, the pumapard can be the product either the puma or the leopard being either father or mother. Different combinations do not produce different results.
However, pumapards are subject to dwarfism. They only grow to be about half the size of their parents.
There have only been a few dozen recorded, as pumapards don’t happen naturally. They must be created via artificial insemination.
There may not be any pumapards out there today unless they’re in private zoos, but they could theoretically be bred for again.
The struddlefish was a surprise to the researchers that created it.
It is the product of a cross between the Russian sturgeon and American paddlefish. Both are critically endangered species that researchers wanted to bred in capitivity. The Russian sturgeon produces a favorite variety of caviar.
The two fish’s last common ancestor was almost two hundred million years ago. Apparently, in that time, neither fish evolved much genetically, which is why after all that time, they were still compatible.
Researchers accidentally fertilized sturgeon eggs with paddlefish sperm, and were surprised to see offspring that featured distinct features of each parent fish.
28. The land-marine iguana
It’s fitting that one of these hybrids would naturally occur in the place where Charles Darwin first observed the biodiversity that facilitates evolution.
The land-marine iguana is the product of a male marine iguana and a female land iguana.
Scientists believe that at some point in recent history, marine iguanas food supply collapsed. A huge amount of the marine iguana population died off.
Some of the marine iguana went onto land in search of food. Male marine iguanas are larger and more aggressive that female land iguanas, and so the female land iguanas may have had little choice in the matter.
These hybrid iguanas have only ever been found in the South Plaza Island of the Galapagos archipelago.
29. Tiger salamander
This is the story of two tiger salamander. One was a species from California, the other from Texas. As you may have heard, everything is bigger in Texas.
The Texas salamanders were brought to California as fishing bait, but a few got out, and made their way to the habitats of the California tiger salamander.
The California salamander was already struggling and endangered, so the introduction of the more competitive Texas tiger salamander made things even harder for the native Californias.
Meanwhile, back in Texas, habitats destruction of the Texan tiger salamander led to population declines.
The two ended up breeding, and their offspring would be even bigger and more aggressive than both mom and dad. Now, the Texas-California hybrid, super salamander dominating the ecosystem.
Maybe this is evolution in action? Maybe not, but there’s no going back now.
30. Burmese Indian python hybrid
In another only-in-Florida situation, Burmese pythons are a big problem.
It is believed that some of the Burmese pythons were set loose by irresponsible pet owners. But Hurricane Andrew may have really kicked the whole situation off when it destroyed a python breeding facility, likely letting many pythons out at once.
As if a growing number of invasive, ecologically destructive Burmese pythons isn’t enough of an issue, somewhere along the line, some Indian pythons got away from their owners too. The two pythons met, mated, and an only-in-Florida super python was born. The hybrids are bigger and capable of spreading further than either parent species. Their parent snakes are adapted two different environments. The Burmese-Indian python seems well adapted to both.
31. Translucent frogs
Do you remember dissecting frogs in science class? Scientists wanted a way to study frog organs in action rather than post mortem.
They successfully bred frogs with translucent skin so that they could see its organs and biological make up while testing chemicals simply by dying the chemicals green or some other bright color.
However only one out of every sixteen of the bred frogs achieves the transparency researchers are looking for. To make matters more difficult, the transparent ones have a hard time reproducing themselves.
32. Polecat-mink hybrid
Polecat-mink hybrids occur in the wild, but are rare. Scientists believe this hybridization occurs when the European polecats populations are in decline, a last-ditch effort to procreate when the going gets tough.
The two generally live in two different different, but neighboring habitats with some areas of overlap. The European mink lives in the colder, most Northwestern part of Russia that borders Scandinavia and Eastern European countries. The European polecat is found all around mainland Europe, extending into the warmer, balmier climates of Southern Europe.
As climates warmed in the early 20th century, the polecat was able to wander further and further into the mink’s habitat, increasing the amount of contact the two had. The mink on the other hand is critically endangered due to its reduced and more populated habitat.
From the hybrids created in captivity, it seems that males are sterile, but females are fertile.