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 â€” an offspring that shares traits from both parent species. You may have heard of the mysterious sheep-pig creature, but it turns out that one isn’t a true hybrid.
Here are six bizarre, but truly unique half-breeds.
(Photo: Wiki Commons / GNU)
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.
(Photo: Jason Douglas / Wiki Commons / public domain)
Savannah cats are the name given to the offspring of a domestic cat and a serval â€” 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.
(Photo: aliwest44 / Flickr)
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).
(Photo: Mark Interrante (aka pinhole) / 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 two 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.
(Photo: via Inhabitots.com)
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.
(Photo: via readthesmiths.com)
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 that beefalo meat, like bison meat, tends to be lower in fat and cholesterol. They are also thought to produce less damage to range-land than cattle.
Bryan Nelson is a regular contributor to Mother Nature Network, where a version of this post originally appeared.