Zedonk Foal Turns Heads at Georgia Wildlife Preserve

What do you get when you cross a zebra and a donkey? One interesting story.

Although it might sound more like a joke than an actual event, one such zebra-donkey hybrid (known as a zedonk) was born last week at a wildlife preserve in Northern Georgia. Born to a donkey mother and a zebra father, the zedonk filly displays characteristics of both parents.

zedonk foal

The zedonk foal feels right at home in the Georgia Wildlife Preserve.

"Her conformation is marvelous," said C.W. Wathen, Chestatee Wildlife Preserve founder and general manager. "She's got a little dainty horse face. And of course she's got the donkey's tan color, and then she's got those striped legs. There's no way to describe her; she's just beautiful."

Zebras and donkeys have run together on the preserve for years without the arrival of any crossbred offspring, so the zedonk's birth was quite unexpected, said Wathen. Donkeys serve to keep the often nervous zebras settled in captivity, similar to the zebra and wildebeest partnership in the wild. Like her father, the zedonk demonstrates some of these wild instincts. For example, she is "always alert and always looking as if something is out there," Wathen noted.

The zedonk also inherited some of her mother's qualities; Wathen was pleased to report that the little filly walked up to the fence and allowed him to pet her. "If it was a full-blooded zebra, it would probably be months before she would do that, because of the wild instincts," he said. Wathen is hopeful that she is even-tempered enough that he can begin training her in the next few months. Although donkeys do not mind being worked with, zebras tend to panic when wearing halters; Wathen anticipates he and others working at the preserve can handle the zedonk more than is possible with zebras.

The zedonk is already very popular, with more media coverage and attention than Wathen has seen in the 40 years he has worked with animals. The zedonk has proven to be even more popular than the preserve's white tigers, considered a longtime favorite of the public. Wathen plans to hold a naming contest when school is back in session, and he welcomes any name suggestions, although Pippi Longstocking remains a popular submission.

Wathen, a Kentucky native, started out many years ago owning Quarter Horses. He maintained both Quarter Horses and Miniature Horses as hobby until someone offered to trade him some zebras for some Miniatures. Wathen said that he fell in love with the zebras, and when the man returned offering some monkeys, he took those too. "From that day on, it never ended," he said. "We probably have 70-80 species here now, of all different types of animals—elks, camels, white tigers, bears."

For more information on Chestatee Wildlife Preserve, located in Dahlonega, Ga., visit www.chestateewildlife.com.

About the Author

Courtney LeMay, Editorial Intern

Courtney LeMay was editorial intern for The Horse for the summer of 2010. She attends Asbury Univeristy, planning to graduate in 2013 with a double major in Journalism and Media Communications. She is currently the senior staff features writer for her school paper, the Asbury Collegian, as well as a member of the swim team.

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