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The BBC's Tom Heap
Tilly had had an exotic partner
 real 56k

Lesley Barwise-Munro
To produce a live foal it had to be that the male was the zebra
 real 28k

Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 13:09 GMT 14:09 UK
Zebra hybrid is cute surprise
Zebra PA
It was a bit of a shock to everyone
A Shetland pony on a UK farm has surprised its owners by giving birth to a half-zebra foal.

She was fairly fat when we received her and we thought that she was getting fatter

Karen Pete, owner
The hybrid animal, now a week old, appears healthy and is bouncing around its paddock at the Eden Ostrich World, at Langwathby Hall Farm, near Penrith, Cumbria.

The owners of the pony, called Tilly, had no idea she was pregnant when they bought her from a wildlife park, where she had been kept in a field with a male zebra.

"She was fairly fat when we received her and we thought that she was getting fatter," Karen Pete said. "It really was a bit of a shock when we got up one morning and we saw the foal that was there. We realised then what had happened."

Genetic difference

A cross between a horse and a zebra is rare but by no means unheard of. Colchester Zoo in Essex has had three zeedonks - crosses between a Chapman's Zebra and a black ass - since 1983.

Zebra PA
As yet, the hybrid has no name
The Cumbrian foal would probably be called a zorse, although some commentators have suggested it might better be termed a zetland.

Hybrids are an interesting curiosity. The mule is perhaps the most famous cross - a combination between a horse and a donkey - and an animal of economic importance because it is a hard worker.

Hybrids are not easy to create, however. The mating pair's different number of chromosomes - the "packets" of DNA in each cell - makes a pregnancy hard to achieve.

A horse has 64 chromosomes; the zebra has 44. The zorse that results from cross breeding will have a number of chromosomes that is somewhere in between.

Tourist attraction

The zorse can only result where the sire is the zebra.

I can see no reason why this animal should not go on and live a long life

Lesley Barwise-Munro, veterinary surgeon
"The smaller number of chromosomes has to be on the male side," Lesley Barwise-Munro, a veterinary surgeon in Alnwick, Northumberland, and a spokeswoman for the British Equine Veterinary Association, told BBC News Online.

"If it had been the other way around there would have been no pregnancy. It's how nature works."

And hybrids are invariably sterile, she added.

Visitors will be able to see the foal when the centre reopens its gift shop and tea room on Monday. The attraction has been closed since March because of the foot-and-mouth crisis.

Good future

At first, Karen and her husband Jim were reluctant to publicise the new arrival because they were unsure whether it would live or not.

Zebra PA
Not something you usually see on a Shetland pony
"We didn't really want anybody to know about it because with the genetic mixture we've got with the two different species, we thought it might not survive," he told the BBC.

"Now...there's a good chance. She's got her feet, she's drinking well and she's really lively."

Lesley Barwise-Munro said: "It appears perfectly healthy and I can see no reason why this animal should not go on and live a long life - barring any major health problems which could affect any animal."

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