7 Hybrid Animals That Sound Fake But Are Actually Real

By: Yara Simón  | 
Domestic Savannah cat sitting on the arm of a couch in a wallpapered home
This domestic Savannah cat gets its long legs from the African serval side of its family. Kolomenskaya Kseniya / Shutterstock

Key Takeaways

  • Hybrid animals are offspring of two different or closely related species and can occur naturally or through artificial insemination.
  • These hybrids, like the liger (lion-tiger cross) and zonkey (zebra-donkey cross), often have unique characteristics from both parent species.
  • While some hybrid animals can reproduce, most are usually infertile due to genetic differences between the parent species.

If you've never seen a zebroid before, you might think your eyes are deceiving you. But the part zebra, part equine animal isn't something out of a sci-fi film. Zebroids are hybrid animals, a cross between two species.

Read on to learn more about animal hybrids, including a list of unique hybrids you may not have heard of before.



What Is a Hybrid Animal?

Hybrid animals, also called crossbreeds, are the offspring of two different or closely related species. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Welfare Act and Animal Welfare Regulations:

Crosses between wild species, such as lions and tigers, are considered to be wild animals. Crosses between wild animal species and domestic animals, such as dogs and wolves or buffalo or domestic cattle, are considered to be domestic animals.

These hybrids can occur naturally, but they can also be the result of artificial insemination. Research shows that hybridization may be quite the rare occurrence, at about 1 percent frequency. However, some researchers have estimated frequencies as high as 10 percent.


Can Hybrid Animals Reproduce?

While some hybrid pairings result in fertile offspring, crossbreeds usually cannot reproduce. The parent species may not have the same genetic makeup, meaning the offspring's chromosomes may not match up, leaving them infertile.


1. Grolar Bear or Pizzly Bear

Profile shot of a Pizzly bear in greenery
This pizzly bear had a polar bear for a father and a grizzly bear for a mother. Wirestock Creators / Shutterstock

Grolar bears are a mix of male grizzly bears and female polar bears. Pizzly bears come from a male polar bear and a female grizzly bear. Typically, these two species do not live in the same environment, but climate change has altered that. Grolar and pizzly bears are capable of having hybrid offspring.


2. Hinny or Mule

A caravan of mules with packs walk up a trail with the Grand Canyon in the background
These appropriately named pack mules trek up a trail at the Grand Canyon. Mark Newman / Getty Images

A hinny is the result of breeding between a female donkey and a male horse. When a male donkey and a female horse mate, the resulting animal hybrid is a mule.


3. Jaglion or Liguar

Jaglions are the offspring of a male jaguar and female lion. Liguars are — you guessed it — the result of a female jaguar and a male lion breeding. There was an instance of jaglion cubs being born in captivity in 2006, but unaltered images of the crossbreed are so rare that we were unable to find a photo for this article.


3. Leopon

Leopon are the offspring of a male leopard and female lion. They are part of the Panthera hybrid, which is a cross between any two Panthera species, which includes jaguar, leopard, snow leopard, lion and tiger. Again, leopons are exceptionally rare, so we were unable to find an image.


4. Liger or Tigon

Liger in a concrete cage
This liger in the Siberian Tiger Park or Harbin, China, is the hybrid of a male lion and a female tiger. Giusparta / Shutterstock

A cross between male lion and a female tiger, a liger does not occur naturally since the two animals do not share the same habitat. A tigon is the result of a male tiger and a female lion mating.


5. Savannah Cat

Domestic Savannah cat sitting in a plush bed
Savannah cats are an energetic breed, though this one seems to be enjoying some downtime. Gennadiy Naumov / Shutterstock

Savannah cats are hybrid cats, a mix of an African serval and a domestic cat. These playful cats have long legs, a holdover from their African serval heritage.


6. Wholphin

A wholphin frolics beside a bottlenose dolphin in clear water
A wholphin (left) frolics beside a bottlenose dolphin (right). beaverboy56 / Shutterstock

Wholphins are the result of a male false killer whale mating with a female bottlenose dolphin. Both false killer whales and bottlenose dolphins belong to the dolphin family.

While scientists don't have a deep understanding of false killer whales' social relationships, they do know that they develop friendships with bottlenose dolphins.


7. Zonkey or Zebadonk

A curious zonkey walks in snow.
From a distance, you might mistake this zonkey for a horse or mule, but the stripes help clarify its origins. by Angela M. Babbit / Getty Images

Zonkeys are a cross between a male zebra and female donkey. A zebadonk is a hybrid species bred from a male donkey and female zebra. Both donkeys and zebras belong to the horse family.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hybrid animals more prone to health issues?
Yes, hybrid animals can be more prone to health issues due to genetic mismatches from their different parent species, leading to complications or shortened lifespans.
How do hybrid animals impact biodiversity?
Hybrid animals can impact biodiversity by potentially introducing new traits into populations, but they can also threaten pure species' genetic integrity.