Scientists Learning From Male ‘Zonkey’ Ippo

Ippo is unwittingly giving scientists a powerful look into the science of how equids (and other species) evolved, researchers say.
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Zonkeys (like this one and Ippo) give scientists a powerful look into the science of how equids (and other species) evolved. | Photo: Ruth Boraggina/Wikimedia Commons

Ippo was an accident.

But he was a beautiful accident. One that brings unexpected joys, marvels, adventures … and scientific discoveries.

Half donkey, half zebra, the charming little hybrid “zonkey” was born in an Italian animal rescue center near Florence. His mother, an Italian Amiata donkey, was bred unexpectedly by a Burchell’s plains zebra, a former circus animal, that jumped his fence at the center. Now age 5, Ippo is only one of four zebroids of this particular subspecies (Equus burchelli zebra, which has a unique number of chromosomes) in the world (the others are in China, Mexico, and the Eurasian country of Georgia), and he’s the only male born from a donkey dam and zebra sire

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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