Can a Horse & Zebra Reproduce?

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Horses and zebras can reproduce, and whether the result is a zorse or a hebra depends on the parents. It's an unusual pairing usually requiring human help. Other zebra hybrids include the zonkey. Properly imprinted, equine hybrids can be trained like other domestic donkeys and horses.

Meet the Zorse

The mating of a zebra stallion and a horse mare will result in a zorse. The zorse's color will depend on the dominant gene color of the mother. Mom also passes along her size, shape and temperament. Dad the zebra contributes his stripes, which are boldest on the legs and rear of the offspring. The zorse's coat is short and coarse.

Mix and Match

Though they tend to take after their mother in temperament, zorses have a strong flight response from their zebra parentage. Because of their personalities and build, they're better suited for riding than pure zebras. They have large, pricked ears for great hearing and a sharp sense of smell, thanks to their large nostrils.

A Little Help, Please

Most zorses are bred in captivity, particularly in zoos and animal institutes. Zorses aren't as vulnerable to some diseases as zebras and horses, so they are useful in Africa for trekking. Because of their build and appearance, they're used as riding and show animals in North America. It's possible for them to mate without assistance, but fairly unusual. Stallions prefer to mate with other horses, so it's particularly difficult to arrange offspring that are the result of a male horse and female zebra. In those rare occasions, the offspring is referred to as a hebra.

Zorse Plus Zorse Equals Zero

The fact that horses and zebras can successfully mate is rather surprising, given that zebras have a difficult time breeding across different species. There's been mixed success attempting to breed mountain, plains and Grevy's zebras in captivity, with results ranging from healthy foals to high rates of abortion. If a horse and zebra successfully mate, their offspring will likely be sterile. Domestic horses have 64 chromosomes; Grevy's zebras have 46 chromosomes; mountain zebras have 32 and plains zebras have 44. A zorse inherits two different sets of chromosomes that can't mix because of the differences in the shape, size and number of chromosomes.

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