11 Amazing Hybrid Animals

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Mixing things up

Photo: Jess Kraft/Shutterstock

Ligers, tigons and grolar bears, oh my! Take a look at some of these otherworldly hybrid animals and you'll realize the possibilities are endless. Though they rarely occur in nature, individuals from different but closely related species do occasionally mate, and the result is a biological hybrid — an offspring that shares traits from both parent species. Here are 11 bizarre, but truly unique half-breeds.

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Photo: Akulinina/Shutterstock

Ligers are the cross of a male lion and a female tiger, and they are the largest of all living cats and felines. Their massive size may be a result of imprinted genes which are not fully expressed in their parents, but are left unchecked when the two different species mate. Some female ligers can grow to 10 feet in length and weigh more than 700 pounds. Ligers are distinct from tigons, which come from a female lion and male tiger. Various other big cat hybrids have been created too, including leopons (a leopard and a lion mix), jaguleps (a jaguar and leopard mix) and even lijaguleps (a lion and jagulep mix).

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Photo: Peter Etchells/Shutterstock

A zebroid is the offspring of a cross between a zebra and any other equine, usually a horse or a donkey. There are zorses, zonkeys, zonies and a host of other combinations.

Zebroids are an interesting example of hybrids bred from species that have a radically different number of chromosomes. For instance, horses have 64 chromosomes and zebra have between 32 and 44 (depending on species). Even so, nature finds a way.

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Grolar bears

Photo: SciShow/YouTube

The offspring of a grizzly bear and a polar bear, a grolar bear is one beast you don't want to meet in the woods. Interestingly, unlike many hybrid animals on this list, grolar bears are known to occur naturally in the wild. Some experts predict that polar bears may be driven to breed with grizzly bears at an increased frequency due to global warming, and the fact that polar bears are being forced from their natural habitats on the polar ice.

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Photo: Mark Interrante/flickr

A cross between a false killer whale and an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin, wholphins are hybrids that have been reported to exist in the wild. There are currently only two known to be in captivity, both at Sea Life Park in Hawaii.

The wholphin's size, color and shape are intermediate between the parent species. Even their number of teeth is mixed; a bottlenose has 88 teeth, a false killer whale has 44 teeth, and a wholphin has 66.

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Savannah cats

Photo: Jason Douglas/Wikimedia Commons

Savannah cats are the name given to the offspring of a domestic cat and a serval — a medium-sized, large-eared wild African cat. The unusual cross became popular among breeders at the end of the 20th century, and in 2001 the International Cat Association accepted it as a new registered breed.

Interestingly, savannahs are much more social than typical domestic cats, and they are often compared to dogs in their loyalty. They can be trained to walk on a leash and even taught to play fetch.

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Photo: Taylor Llamas

A cama is a hybrid of two animals from different worlds — camels from Asia, and llamas from South America. The two species exhibit many differences, but camels and llamas are both camelids descended from a common ancestor that evolved in North America during the Palaeogene period.

Camas were produced via artificial insemination to create an animal with the size and strength of the camel, but the more cooperative temperament of the llama. The unlikely fertilization was a success, but the result wasn't quite what breeders had hoped. Camas exhibit a camel-like temperament, but they are attracted to female llamas. (Proof that opposites really do attract!)

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Photo: Mark Spearman/flickr

Beefalo are the fertile offspring of domestic cattle and American bison. Crosses also exist between domestic cattle and European bison (zubrons), and yaks (yakows). The name given to beefalo might be the most suggestive, since the breed was purposely created to combine the best characteristics of both animals with an eye towards beef production.

A USDA study showed beefalo meat, like bison meat, tended to be lower in fat and cholesterol. They are also thought to produce less damage to rangeland than cattle.

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Photo: My Petting Zoo/Facebook

This cross between a sheep and a goat, sometimes called a "geep," is rare because goats and sheep each belong to a different genus. Though matings between the two are known to occur, the offspring most often is stillborn. Even so, live births have occurred, the most famous of which happened in Botswana in 2000. Called the Toast of Botswana, the animal was infertile but it had an active libido — so active, in fact, that it earned itself the nickname of "Bemya," meaning rapist.

An adorable geep named Butterfly (pictured) was born on a petting zoo in North Scottsdale, Arizona. Her mom was a sheep and her dad was a pygmy goat. Butterfly has a goat face and feet but is covered in wool like a sheep.

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Blood parrots

Photo: kwanchai.c/Shutterstock

First created in Taiwan in 1986, blood parrots are the hybrid offspring of either the midas cichlid and the redhead cichlid, or a green or gold Severum with the red devil. It's a controversial fish because it has several anatomical deformities, including such a narrow opening for a mouth that it's difficult for them to feed. They are bred because some fish pet owners enjoy their bright orange colors.

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Mules and hinnies

Photo: Penny Higgins/fllickr

Perhaps the most widespread and useful of hybrids are mules (from a male donkey and a female horse) and hinnies (from a male horse and a female donkey). Reputed for their hard work and strength despite their medium size, mules are dependable and often exhibit higher intelligence than their purebred parents. All male mules and most female mules are infertile, so their continued existence depends entirely on human intervention.

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Narwhal-beluga hybrid

Photo: Wiki Commons

Narwhals and beluga whales are the only two living species of the Monodontidae family, though narwhals are distinct in that they have a long, straight, spiraled tusk extending from their upper left jaw.

Though extremely unusual, at least one hybrid between the two species has been documented from west Greenland.