Historical note on zebra-ass hybrids and zebra-horse hybrids

Ewart (quoted in Riley 1911, pp. 229-230) provides the following brief summary of zebra hybrids produced prior to the twentieth century:

The first zebra hybrids bred were between the ass and the zebra mare, later came crosses between the zebra mare and the horse and later still, zebra mules—crosses between male zebras and ordinary mares.

Lord Clive seems to have bred the first zebra hybrid by crossing a female Mountain zebra (which he brought with him on returning from India) with a common ass. About a quarter of a century later (in 1801), a similar hybrid was bred in Italy and soon after this (in 1806) the first of a series of zebra-ass crosses made its appearance in Paris. Later still, zebra-ass hybrids were bred at Windsor Park (in the time of His Majesty George the Fourth) and at Lord Derby’s once famous menagerie at Knowsley. At least one of the Knowsley hybrids was a cross between an Asiatic ass (E. hemionus) and a Burchell’s zebra mare. A similar hybrid was bred in the Jardin des Plantes, Paris in 1875, and in 1893 a hybrid between a Burchell’s zebra mare (Chapman variety) and a white ass was bred in the Zoological Gardens, Melbourne. There is no record of zebra mules having been bred in the Zoological Gardens, London, but it is reported an effort is now being made in this direction. Some of the zebra-ass hybrids bred in Paris found their way about three years ago to England. One of these—evidently out of a Burchell’s zebra mare—I had the opportunity of studying through the kindness of the Hon. Walter Rothschild.

When the first hybrid between a zebra mare and a horse was bred is uncertain. But for the untimely death of a zebra mare, F. Cuvier would have succeeded in obtaining a hybrid of this kind in 1808. In the Jardin d’Acclimatisation several horse-zebra crosses seem to have been obtained prior to 1880, and between 1880 and 1890 three were bred by Lady Meux at Theobalds Park, Hertfordshire.

In 1815, a hybrid of some historic interest was bred by Lord Morton by crossing the often-referred-to seven-eighths Arabian chestnut mare with a quagga. A similar hybrid Darwin tells us was bred by Lord Mostyn. Later (about 1870), it is said a cross was obtained in the Jardin des Plantes between a pony mare and a male Mountain zebra.

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