Animal Frankensteins: 25 Animals That Combined Their Genes to Form Bizarre Hybrids
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. One conscripted into such breeding because of the aims of researchers or zookeepers, the zonkey can emerge.
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.
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 as massive. 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.
Either way, the progeny of these majestic beasts can sometimes produce children of their own. While the possibility is not ubiquitous across hybrids, the ability is, as we see here, sometimes possible. It’s feasible, then, that the hybrid offspring could thrive into the future as a solitary species. This is unlikely to be the case, however, since the species is not as well-adapted as its two parent species.
Whales and dolphins, in case you were unaware, are extremely closely related. Both belong to the cetacean family. Both have lungs. And 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.
If you’d like to see such a hybrid, the animal 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. Fortunately for us, this hybrid is cute. The resulting offspring has tall springy ears and the stunning coat of a serval.
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.
The liger is arguably the most well known hybrid that exists. While, again, the species does not exist in the wild, artificial conditions in places like zoos and wildlife sanctuaries have fostered their creation. The liger, in part because of its huge size, has gained an exceptional amount of attention.
The liger is a creature that grows much larger than either the lion or tiger that birthed it. This is the result of the common hybrid gigantism. 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 brown bears getting a little closer than once believed possible. Unlike other hybrids, these have been found in the wild. And, also like a few other hybrids, these species are often the result of the stresses of climate change. In the case of polar bears, this has been due to the shifting arctic conditions.
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. Because of this, they are put into more contact with brown bears. Since brown bears are the dominant terrestrial species, the two end up intermingling. The result, as we see here, is the pizzly bear.
The leopon is a hybrid of a jaguar and a lion. This is staggering, considering that jaguars (50 to 200 lbs.) weigh substantially less than the lions (200 to 550 lbs.). For the two to meet and breed, a very particular set of circumstances must be in place. As with the jaglions (another creature we’ll discuss), one of these preconditions is an exclusion in an artificial environment.
While some have speculated that these animals exist in the wild, there is no scientific evidence to support this conclusion. 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 and a zebra. Amazingly, the animal comes complete with a mixed phenotype (that is, outside appearance). This phenotype blends together the most notable elements of the zebra (its black and white stripes) with those of a horse (the flat coat).
Interestingly, the animal is also subject to dwarfism. 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). 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. 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. 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. 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.
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. The hump isn’t something that separates them too much.
Among these differences include things as salient as the woolly coat (unique to the llama), the humps (unique 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 it, the result of narwhals breeding with beluga whales. 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.
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. While this strategy might temporarily boost populations, it is ultimately detrimental to the longevity of the species.
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. 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), they will stay in the sanctuary to remain cared for by the sanctuary and the people who work there. 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.
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.
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.
But 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. Another amazing fact about the beefalo is that it is often fertile. This means that it could, if it felt so inclined, produce viable offspring.
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. But it is also much stronger.
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. 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. Horses have larger wombs, so their infants can grow larger.
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.
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 Pekin and muscovy 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. 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. 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. 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. Unfortunately, the fish is not that viable a creature. 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. 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. The result of this breeding is a rhino that looks a little different than either of its parent species.
Unfortunately, the rhinos are also suffering a dire rate of extinction. 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.
22. Red-grey kangaroo
The red-grey kangaroo is a hybrid that comes from the red kangaroo and the great grey kangaroo. 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.
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. 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. And, once invented, they thrived. In the 1950s, scientists were looking for ways in which to increase honey production. 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).
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. 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.