Zonkeys: Learn About this Zebra and Donkey Hybrid

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Appearance: What Do Zonkeys Look Like?

First, consider that zonkeys are hybrid animals – this means that they come from crossbreeding between a male zebra and a female donkey. It is common for the zonkey to have a combination of physical characteristics from both parent species.

Did you know: A female donkey is called known as a jenny?

The zonkey has a body with similar size and shape to a donkey. It will often have short, powerful legs and a solid, almost thick build. Like a zebra, the zonkey will also carry a notable black-and-white striped pattern on its legs and, sometimes, the body. Depending on the breeding, the amount of striping found can vary considerably between individual animals.

A zonkey’s head is also most similar to the donkey, with notably long ears and a shorter mane. The head, like the body and legs, may carry stripe markings. The zonkey head may be more pointed or angled than that of a donkey, however.

Generally, a zonkey will carry similarities between both parent species but will often look distinct enough to be recognizable as its own unique species.

How Big is a Zonkey?

As with other animals, the size of an individual zonkey will depend on the size of its parents. Considering its breeding, though, the zonkey will generally be considerably smaller than a zebra but larger than a donkey.

So, how big is an average zonkey? Typically, zonkeys will stand between three and five feet tall at shoulder height. The higher end may seem surprising but consider that many species of zebra can stand north of five feet at the shoulders.

Regarding weight, zonkeys can tip the scales at anywhere from 300 to 700 pounds, depending on a variety of factors.

Where Do Zonkeys Live: Habitat and Locations

Donkey_Ansgar Scheffold_Unsplash
The zonkey is a crossbreed of a zebra and a donkey (featured above). (Photo via Jeff Griffith/Unsplash)

Zonkeys are an interesting species because they are the result of crossbreeding. Zebras and donkeys are not species that mate in the wild, therefore it is practically impossible to find a zonkey in nature.

In captivity, however, zonkeys have become increasingly popular and present. They are typically found in facilities designated to house animals, such as zoos or other parks.

Also of note is the fact that zonkeys, as a result of their crossbreeding, are sterile. This means that they are unable to reproduce. The only way a zonkey can be born, then, is through the intentional breeding of the male zebra and female donkey.

Regarding habitat, since zonkeys are only found in captivity, they have no “natural” geographic home. Their parent species, however – the zebra and donkey – are native to several areas. Zebras are often found in grassland and savanna regions, often in Africa. Donkeys, however, are found naturally in more arid regions.

Diet and Lifestyle

While zonkeys share DNA from both zebras and donkeys, their diet is aligned more closely with that of their mothers (the donkey). Since zonkeys are herbivores, they do not prey on other animals.

In captivity, zonkeys typically eat a combination of grass, hay, grains, fruits, and vegetables. Commercial pellets are often added as a supplement to the diet, but naturally occurring foods are the staple.

Diet for a zonkey will also be influenced by age, location, and other health conditions. The same holds true for lifestyle and activity levels.

In captivity, it is normal for zonkeys to exert energy by participating in regular exercise, often with other animals. They tend to enjoy grazing as well. Regular exercise and activity improve agility, strength, and mobility while also ensuring a healthy weight.

Natural Predators

Again, zonkeys benefit from living almost exclusively in captivity. Measures are taken to keep zonkeys safe from any animals who pose a threat.

That said, if zonkeys were to arrive in the wild, it is quite possible that they would experience the same threats as their parent species. Any animal that preys upon zebra and donkeys – lions, hyenas, and even monkeys – may attempt to attack the zonkey.

How Long Have Zonkeys Lived?

Records of zonkey existence trace back several centuries. Artwork from the 19th century (the 1800s) are believed to show zonkeys and other exotic hybrid animals.

In the 19th century, a German animal dealer named Carl Hagenbeck

Carl Hagenbeck, a 19th century German animal dealer, is credited as the first individual to have bred a zonkey. Even noted English biologist Charles Darwin noted the potential for this mating.

Interestingly, however, zonkeys, much like other hybrid animals, are not typically good workers. They have an instinct to flee, thus making them difficult to train. They also are not good to ride, thus there is little effort in attempting to integrate the species into the world outside of captivity.

Are Zonkeys Safe to Eat?

Again, it is worth noting that zonkeys are not a naturally occurring species and, thus, will almost always be in captivity. Even if you were able to access zonkey meat, there may be restrictions against consuming it. Likewise, as an “exotic” species, this is not an animal regularly consumed by humans. It is not recommended that humans eat zonkey meat.

Interactions with Humans

Zebra is a zonkey parent
Photo via Aaron Schultz/Premier Angler

Do Zonkeys Get Along with Humans?

As the crossbreed of zebras and donkeys, zonkeys have the capacity to interact safely with humans. They are considered exotic animals, however, and proper care and training should be expected before interacting with these animals.

Note that both zebras and donkeys can be stubborn animals and are often difficult to train. Attempting to domesticate a hybrid, exotic animal carries a considerable degree of risk and should not be taken lightly. Each zonkey will have a specific temperament and, thus, may respond differently to humans.

Exposure to zonkeys, then, should be conducted under trained specialists, if at all.

Can You Own a Zonkey as a Pet?

Likewise, considering the zonkey is not a naturally occurring species, there may be restrictions or laws that prevent private ownership of zonkeys in particular areas.

Unlike some other exotic animals, the zonkey is not a typical pet. There also does not appear to be much of a demand for the zonkey to become a popular choice for household pet in the near future.

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