A unique Zebra foal caught worldwide attention in 2019 when a local tour guide, Antony Tira, spotted the newborn on the Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya. The foal is thought to have a rare pigment disorder caused by a genetic mutation called pseudomelanism.
“At first, I thought it was a zebra that had been captured and painted or marked for purposes of [researching] migration,” Mr. Tira told a Kenyan newspaper. “I was confused when I first saw it.”
After posting an image on Matira Bush Camp’s Facebook page, the foal became somewhat of a sensation, with tourists and guides seeking the filly and her dam out in the bush.
In keeping with national park custom, the person who finds an unusual or noteworthy animal gets to name it ‒ hence the name Tira.
As for why she is spotted and not striped? According to Greg Barsh, a professor and geneticist at Standford University, it maybe a result of inbreeding. “Because the spotted and partially spotted animals tend to be more frequent in areas that have been subject to habitat fragmentation, and in which the census sizes are low, we do, indeed, suspect that inbreeding (and genetic drift) contribute to the phenotype,” he told Forbes magazine.
Despite non-traditionally striped zebras having a disadvantage is terms of survival rates as they don’t blend into the herd, Tira was filmed, alive and well, last summer after missing in action for quite some time:
In other zebra news, Dominique Ferraro, who resides in Texas, breeds ‘zonkeys’ (or ‘zedonks’), which is, as it sounds, a hybrid of zebra and donkey. She sells the zebra/donkeys as companion animals or for riding. Her latest foal is a filly named Echo, who she estimates will mature to 15 hh. Ferraro told Horse & Hound that Echo already honks when she hears her name called, a sound that the breeder describes as “singing.”
Ferraro also sells horse-and-zebra hybrids from her ranch Zebras R US called ‒ what else? ‒ zorses, as well as purebred zebras and even camels. She says zebras are “very different to horses; I describe them by saying a horse is like a dog, but a zebra or zonkey is like a cat,” who “would never talk to you again!” if you ever did something to upset them.