What is a Zorse?

wiseGEEK Writer

A zorse is a hybrid animal, the combination of a zebra male and a horse female. Any type of horse/donkey/pony combination with a zebra is called zebroid, and sometimes all can be referred to under the common name. You might also hear a zebra/donkey hybrid called a zonkey instead.


The zorse is not a common animal, and retains much of its instinctual wild ancestry. They can be difficult to handle, hard to train and very strong. While there exists fans of the animal, and even organizations that support the sale and affinity for the zorse, such as the International Zebra — Zorse — Zonkey Association (IZZZA), many find the animals tough to handle and far prefer the docility of standard horses for work or riding. The zorse also cannot reproduce, so in order to get more of them, you must go back to the individual breeds to produce more.

Early training is extremely important because of natural instincts of the zebra. Zebras have a much greater flight/fight instinct than do horses, as they are naturally prey animals. Socially, zebras tend to stay in small groups, instead of in the large groups associated with horse ranches. An improperly trained zorse may be aggressive toward others animals, and is prone to injury from being startled.

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Training begins with imprinting, but not bottle-feeding it. A zorse shows little respect for its keeper if it is bottle fed, so if it cannot get milk from its mother, trainers prefer to feed the animal from a bucket. Imprinting then is about daily communication, touching, and training of the animal. Unlike a horse, a zorse must begin training within a few days of being born in order to be a docile animal.

Many might wonder why people would even bother to have a zorse if they can get access to a zebra. The answer generally lies in the fact that a purebred zebra is even harder to train. It can possibly injure itself or its keepers because it is exceptionally strong.

Despite the work involved in raising a zorse, many are rewarded by its intelligence, hard work, and its lovely striped patterns. Some horse shows now have zorse categories, and some animals may compete in races or equestrian events. The captivating appearance is sure to be remarked upon.

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Discussion Comments


I found this interesting because it answered many of my questions. There is just one thing I would like to know: why don't they belong to a particular species, as in the five kingdoms?


This is great information and I am glad I found it, but there is a question that does not make any sense. If the Zorse is genetically stable then why is it sterile, and is it also sterile if the parentage is reversed?


Although this seems a bit strange, there's no real problem with it from a genetic point of view.

People get upset when tigers and lions mate, because for one thing there are very few of both species and they should be used to increase the numbers, rather than making sterile hybrids.

For another, the animals which are bred from this kind of liaison are often crippled and have genetic defects.

But, mules have been bred from horses and donkeys for years and there is no mention here of zorse breeders suffering from those problems.

Since zebras aren't really endangered, there isn't much a of a reason not to breed zorses if you want them.


This makes me think of the story that was bouncing around the blogs a while ago, about the Israeli zoo that couldn't afford to get zebras (which were about 30,000 to import).

So, they got a couple of donkeys and painted them with black and white stripes instead.

The pictures of them actually looked quite good. And the kids apparently were just as keen to come and look at them.

So, no harm done, especially not, I hope, to the donkeys.

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