All About Zebra Hybrids
No, there is no such thing as a miniature Zebra. There are miniature horses, miniature mules, miniature donkeys, miniature cattle, even miniature llamas, but there are no mini-zebras. To start, zebras are only about 11-12 hands (Plains variety) to begin with. That's 44-48". Miniatures in most other "large breeds" are average under 39". Over thousands of years of natural selection in zebras, you see they have stayed the same height. No giants, no minis. Predators in the wild would quickly cull any of these. To get a miniature version of an animal, you must selectively breed domesticated stock. Zebras are still wild animals; there are no strains of truly domesticated zebra. One would have to select for size above all other characteristics to produce an even small zebra. Much more emphasis should be placed on breeding zebras (especially those for the "exotic" market) for temperament and conformation. Those with volatile tempers and poor bite (anything over 1/4" and certainly discard anything with more than 1/2" over or under-bite) should NOT be used as breeding stock, whether for zebra or hybrid productions.
Zebras and Zebra Hybrids
Zebra hybrid is an all-encompassing term for a zebra crossed on any other equine. The term Zorse is to used to describe the cross of a zebras stallion to a horse mare. Other terms seen are Zebroid, Zony (zebra x Pony) or Zeony. Zebra -donkey crosses are termed Zebroid, Zebrass, Zonkey or Ze-donk. A more romantic (but not technically accurate) term that has recently surfaced is "Golden Zebra", used for any zebra hybrid. The once popular term "Zebra mule" is no longer used either.
Zebra stallions are used
primarily for zebra Hybrid breeding. Zebra mares are needed for the production
of purebred zebras. The rare "Zebra hinny" (also called a zebret
in older texts, and more recently coined "Zebrinny") has been
seen, but zebra stallions that are hand-raised (as opposed to nursed by his
zebra mother) with horses or donkeys are much easier to use in Zebroid
(Zorse, zedonk, zonkey, zony) production.
Zebras may appear to have
"ponyish" bodies, but the hip shape does differ as well. Zebras ears
are larger and rounder than horse ears. The Mountain zebras have almost
donkey-like ears, while the Grevy's zebra sports a huge flared conical ear. The
necks are characteristically straighter in the longears, and most donkeys and
all zebras lack a true wither. The manes are stiff and upright, and zebras,
like donkeys, have no forelocks. Zebras have variety of noises, most commonly
the "qua-ha" or "barking" sound. These traits are all
passed along, in part, just as they are in Mules, to zebra Hybrid offspring.
Most Zebrasses (Zebra X Donkey crosses) look just like donkeys with zebras
striping on the colored coat.
There are several variations
of the striping patterns in the zebra, from the broad sweeping flank stripes of
the Grants to the shadow stripes of the Damarland, to the numerous narrow body
striped and white belly of the Grevys. These three varieties of zebra are the
most commonly seen in zebra hybrid breeding. However, it seems that no matter
the exact pattern of the zebra sire, many zebroids may actually have more
stripes over the hips and back than the parents. Typically a zebra hybrid will
have boldly striped legs, a clearly marked dorsal stripe, and varying degrees
of striping on the face, neck, shoulders and body. The stripes are dark brown
or black against coats of all horse colors, or may even appear red on chestnut
or sorrel coats. Pinto mares may throw zebra hybrid foals with pinto coats,
where the dark stripes are overlaid on the dark areas. Care should be taken in
breeding roans or grays for hybrids, as these colors could obscure the
striping patterns as the white hairs progress.
Zebra hybrids, depending on
the parents, will be either more horselike or more ass-like in body shape. They
also are typically smaller than most horses or mules. Most zebra breeds are
small, even the largest variety, the Grevys, is only about 13 hands high.
Zebroids can be bred larger by using tall, well-bred mares of all saddle types.
Stock mares are very popular for producing saddle and harness zebroids.
Zebra hybrids are growing in
popularity. Although the zebra is a true wild animal, if carefully raised
around domestic equines from a very young age, even pure zebras can be used
under saddle, as pack animals, or in harness. Few breeders will use zebras this
way, instead concentrating on the colorful zebroid offspring.
Zebras lack withers, and saddles are difficult to fit to the animals. The hybrids are shaped more like the non-zebra parent, and also usually have better personalities. This makes them the more ideal candidates for working animals. As more breeders are crossing zebra stallions to a variety of good mares, it is hoped that someday there will be classes of striped Zebra hybrids in the showing to compliment the spotted and patched mule and donkey color classes.
Zebra hybrids are not for everyone, though. People who have never owned and trained an equine should be discouraged from owning a zebra hybrid for their first equine. The responses of the hybrid differ from that of horses, and they are very quick. Novices should gain some experience working with horses or mules, and then later obtain an adult, well-trained hybrid. ADMS has a list of breeders and sellers of Zorses available from the office.