Most people assume that we've already discovered every animal on Earth, and yet the reality couldn't be further from the truth. Crossbreeds may not be anything new — take dog or horse breeding, for example — but sometimes, Mother Nature creates some truly wacky hybrids all on her own. Have you heard of a “pizzly,” a “cama" or a “dzo”? Though they may sound made-up, we assure you these wild animal hybrids are completely real.
Go out on an ocean cruise in secluded waters, and you may spot an elusive wholphin. This slippery friend is made when a bottlenose dolphin and a false killer whale mate together. And it’s a cross that only happens when there aren’t many other options. Where you will find one, of all places, is Sea Life Park Hawaii.
Sea Life Park
The park kept one bottlenose dolphin and one false killer whale as trained animals to perform in shows for visitors, but on their downtime backstage, the two got a little frisky. Since they were in captivity, their mating options were pretty limited — and their wholphin offspring is the spitting image of them both.
Like mother like daughter
The calf, which is what baby whales or dolphins are called, was born without any defects, and the mom got through the pregnancy just fine. In fact, the hybrid wholphin gave birth to its own offspring in 2005 and is doing well. But wholphins aren't the only animals that have conservationists scratching their heads.
One of the rarest hybrids on Earth is the geep. Not only is the name fun to say, but the animals themselves are also super cute. As adorable and seemingly harmless as these little geep — geeps? — are, they’re not very common. That said, one shepherd in Germany got quite a surprise when he took his eye off the ball one mating season.
The shepherd had a flock of goats and sheep, which were normally kept separate. But once, a goat and sheep got a little too close when no one was looking. The result was a perfectly healthy baby geep. And these accidental crosses extend to ocean animals, too.
Due to their size and majesty, big cat hybrids continue to fascinate animal fans worldwide. And new breed combinations keep popping up all the time. People are particularly mesmerized by the unique beauty of one relatively new species: the jaglion.
Making new lives
In 2006 black jaguar Diablo and lioness Lola became closer than close in their domestic home at the Bear Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, Canada. Together, they produced two jaglions. The coloration of these cats is mesmerizing, but there’s another big-cat combo with spots that are arguably even more impressive.
This animal is called the jagulep, or jagupard, and it shouldn't exist. In the wild, a jaguar and a leopard could never breed to produce a jagulep. They live in different parts of the world — one in the western Americas and the other in Africa and Asia. But Chicago Zoo made the impossible possible.
When the animals were in captivity, the zoo bred them to see if a hybrid offspring was possible. Without realizing that this wasn’t particularly ethical, the public fell in love with the strange new jagulep. But hybrids such as this are often infertile and have genetic problems.
One famous example, and probably the most popular among these wild hybrid cats, is the liger. Napoleon Dynamite may have been a fan of these animals, but conservationists are adamantly against the breeding of lions and tigers — for understandable reasons.
The liger's giant size draws big crowds. But that tends to happen when you force two large animals to procreate. And it’s their size that’s the main problem here. From the time that they’re cubs, these cats are prone to health issues — obesity, organ failure, and the potential for neurological disorders, to name a few.
Deadly match game
Plus, ligers can be large even in their mothers’ wombs, making for a difficult pregnancy. The cubs may have birth defects, or the mom may not even survive giving birth. So, as cool as it may seem to breed these animals, it has to be done responsibly — not simply out of curiosity.
Move on up
In their North American habitats, grizzly bears are migrating at alarming rates even farther north. On the way, some of them wind up meeting polar bears and sharing something sweeter than honey: a new breed of bear cub.
Known as either grolar bears or pizzlies, the offspring of the grizzly and polar bear is a new type of bear that sports a coat of brown and white fur mottled together. Contrary to the ligers, these guys are all-natural and have no known health problems. But one question remains: why the large-scale migration?
Like any other animal, grizzlies only thrive in certain climates and conditions. With temperatures gradually rising, the grizzlies are moving up north to get closer to the chilly wilderness that they, and their prey, prefer. And they aren’t the only ones on the move.
Together, the wolves and coyotes create coywolves. These funky creatures aren't shy in the least! They can be found in towns, suburban areas, and forests surrounding large human populations, and the reason for this is ingenious.
Like their domestic dog relatives, coywolves and their parents have realized that food is a lot easier to get to when humans are around. Why hunt in the wild when humans have dumpsters and small pets to snack on? Given how they’ve adapted, scientists believe coywolves will be a lasting breed.
Passing down survival
In 1997 the marine iguana and the Galapagos land iguana struggled to survive following a food scarcity. So, the marine iguanas traveled inland to look for food. There, they mated with land iguanas, creating children that could survive on more than just seaweed.
But Charles Darwin didn't just observe hybridization in the Galapagos. He created it. In the 19th century, the naturalist mixed a zebra with a horse to create this equestrian beauty. Nowadays, these animals are extremely rare because they're either sterile or infertile.
These grazing animals are the offspring of American buffaloes and domestic cattle. The first accidental crossing of these species is said to have occurred about 300 years ago, but scientists deliberately engineered the specimen to help with the beef production industry in 1880.
This unique breed of cat is often compared to dogs in terms of its loyalty and intelligence, and it can even be trained like dogs as well. The breed mainly exists in the wild and is a mix of a domestic house cat and African wildcat.
If you mix together a male camel and female llama, you have yourself a cama. They basically look like smaller, fluffier camels. Scientists artificially reproduced them to create an animal that generated more wool than a llama.
You can probably guess which two animals make up this species! They were first bred together for people who wanted to own exotic-looking animals. But because the result is a genetic mixture of both a dog and a wolf, it's difficult to predict the physical and behavioral characteristics.
If you cross a lioness with a male tiger, you get a tigon. This happened back in 1943 at the Munich Hellabrunn Zoo, and the cubs are said to have made it to adulthood. But the family tree would stop there, as this breed is sterile.
This animal looks a lot like a horse, but that coat has zebra written all over it. Zebroid is the term given to a zebra mixed with any other type of equestrian animal — and this one looks fantastical!
This mix of regular cattle and a winsent was thought to be an optimal replacement for cattle. Why? Well, it appeared to be stronger and more resistant to the kinds of diseases that would wipe out entire herds. Now, though, the only remaining zubrons exist in a small herd in Poland's Białowieski National Park.
This narwhal and beluga whale mix is extremely rare. If you do go looking for one, though, know that the long nose of the narwhal is missing and that the head shape is more like a beluga whale.