What is a hybrid animal? While you might think that hybrid creatures only exist in fables and myths, the truth is that there are a number of crossbred animals that exist both in captivity and in the wild.
Hybrid animals usually originate from two similar types of animals mating, like lions and tigers, but it is also possible to use science to create these creatures through a process called "somatic hybridization." Somatic hybridization allows scientists to manipulate the genes of two similar species of animals in order to create an interesting new animal that has useful traits from both of its parents.
Check out the list below for 12 real examples of incredible hybrid animals.
1. Liger: Male Lion and Female Tiger Hybrid Animal
Interestingly, ligers tend to grow up to be much bigger than either of their parents. The largest non-obese liger in the world weighs 1,000 pounds, and the heaviest one ever recorded weighed an astounding 1,600 pounds.
Unlike some hybrid animals, it would be nearly impossible to find ligers in the wild because lions and tigers do not naturally inhabit the same regions of the world.
They usually look and behave more like lions than tigers, but they do show tiger traits such as a love for swimming and striped backs.
You can read more about ligers here.
2. Tigon: Male Tiger and Female Lion Hybrid Animal
Nobody could blame you for thinking that a tigon should basically be the exact same animal as a liger. After all, they have the same two types of big cats for parents.
Tigons are much smaller than ligers, and they usually tend to also be smaller than both of their parents as well. They typically look much more like their tiger fathers, but they possess traits from their lion mothers, such as the ability to roar and a love for socialization.
3. Wholphin: False Killer Whale and Dolphin Hybrid Animal
Wholphins are one of the rarest hybrid animals. They come from the crossbreeding of a female bottle-nosed dolphin and a male false killer whale (a member of the dolphin family and not related to killer whales).
While some people have said that they have seen wholphins in the ocean, there is no concrete evidence of this. Currently, they can only be seen in captivity.
Wholphins are an extremely interesting balance of their parents. Their skin is a dark gray that is a perfect blend of light gray dolphin skin and black false killer whale skin. They also have 66 teeth, which is the precise average of the 88 teeth a dolphin has and the 44 teeth of a false killer whale.
4. Leopon: Leopard and Lion Hybrid Animal
Leopons grow to be nearly as large as lions, but they have shorter legs like a leopard. They also have other leopard traits, such as a love for water and the ability to climb well.
Did You Know? When a male lion mates with a leopardess, the resulting offspring is called a lipard. Male lions are typically about 10 feet long and weigh around 500 pounds, but a female leopard is usually only about 5 feet long and weighs about 80 pounds. Because of the immense size difference between a male lion and a female leopard, this pairing happens very rarely.
5. Beefalo: Buffalo and Cow Hybrid Animal
In most cases, beefalo are created through breeding programs that pair a domesticated bull with a female American bison. Unlike many other types of animal hybrids, beefalo are able to reproduce on their own, which is a useful trait.
These animals were intentionally crossbred by humans to improve beef production, and they carry the best traits of both species. They produce leaner, more flavorful meat like bison, but they are more docile and easier to raise like domestic cattle.
Typically, beefalo are 37.5% bison and mostly resemble cattle. There are some breeds that are 50% or more bison, and these are sometimes called "cattalo." In addition, any hybrid that resembles a bison more than a cow is usually considered an "exotic animal" rather than livestock.
6. Grolar Bear: Grizzly and Polar Bear Hybrid Animal
These animals are also sometimes called "pizzly bears," and the Inuit call them "nanulak," which is a blend of their word for polar bear, "nanuk," and grizzly bear, "aklak."
Grolar bears are interesting because, generally speaking, polar bears and grizzlies have a mutual contempt for one another and will rarely coexist in captivity or in their natural habitats. However, extreme situations and human interventions have produced more of these adorably shaggy, caramel-colored hybrid bears.
These bears grow to be slightly smaller than polar bears at an average height of 60 inches at the shoulder and around 1,000 pounds, but they are better able to survive in warmer climates thanks to their grizzly bear genes.
7. Jaglion: Jaguar and Lion Hybrid Animal
Not much is known about jaglions simply because so few of them exist. However, an unintentional mating between a black jaguar and a lioness resulted in two jaglion cubs. One has the coloring of a lion and the rosette-pattern spotting of a jaguar, but the other sports a breathtaking dark gray coat with black spotting thanks to the dominant melanism gene found in black jaguars.
Offspring produced by the opposite pairing of a male lion and female jaguar are called liguars.
8. Zebroid: Zebra and Horse Hybrid Animal
Zebra hybrids are usually infertile, and most pairings are rare. For example, the offspring of a male donkey and a female zebra is called a 'hinny,' but these are extremely uncommon.
Zebra hybrids usually have the appearance of whichever animal they have been crossbred with while still retaining the striped coat of a pure zebra. Most of these hybrid animals don't have fully striped coats. Instead, the stripes are usually found on just the legs or non-white areas of the body, depending on the genetics of the non-zebra parent.
For more information about the zorse, click here.
9. Geep: Goat and Sheep Hybrid Animal
Despite being absolutely adorable, the geep is exceptionally rare, and some experts debate whether or not the geep is a true hybrid or simply a sheep with genetic abnormalities. This is because goats and sheep carry a different number of chromosomes, which means that cross-species conception is nearly impossible. If it happens, very few babies are carried to term, and even fewer survive birth.
Regardless of the controversy around whether or not a true geep can exist, looking at pictures of these animals is sure to make you smile.
10. Cama: Camel and Llama Hybrid Animal
Like beefalo, the cama was created through specific breeding procedures in an effort to produce an animal that was more economically viable than either of its parents.
Camas are hybrids of dromedary camels and llamas, typically via artificial insemination. This is the best and safest way to breed them since male dromedary camels often weigh as much as six times more than female llamas, and the reverse pairing has never successfully created offspring.
Camas do not have humps like a camel, and they are covered in soft, fleecy fur similar to a llama's. They were bred with the intent of creating an animal that could produce more wool than a normal llam,a but would also be strong and docile enough to be used as a pack animal in desert climates.
11. Savannah Cat: Domestic Cat and African Serval Hybrid Animal
Savannahs are striking animals that are around the same size as a large domestic cat, but their tall bodies, slender forms, and spotted coats give them a wild, exotic appearance. Savannah cats with a higher percentage of serval blood can sometimes be up to twice as large as a domestic cat! So, anyone interested in owning one should do plenty of careful research.
They are extremely intelligent, loyal, and loving creatures, and they are prized as household pets.
12. Green Sea Slug: Algae and Slug Hybrid Animal
Possibly the most unusual hybrid animal on this list is the green sea slug. It is a sea slug that has managed to take genetic material from the algae it eats and incorporate it into its own DNA. The strange result is a plant-animal hybrid that can consume food like an animal or create its own nutrients via photosynthesis.
These sea slugs are more commonly called "emerald green elysia," and their ability to turn solar energy into food is what gives them their brilliant green hue.
Scientists acknowledge that they will have to do more research in order to determine how this phenomenon can happen, but as of now, this is the only successful instance of gene transfer from one type of complex organism to another.
From myth to reality! Some animals still remain firmly in the realm of fairy tales and mythology, but these are just a few of the exciting hybrid animals that live in the same world that we inhabit.