When we use the word “hybrid” today, we’re probably referring to a car that uses both electrical and fossil fuels. But people have been hybridizing things for a very long time — cross breeding plants to produce hardier wheat, or domestic animals to make them meatier or stronger or more easily managed.
Mixing the genes of two very closely related species is one thing — after all, various members of the equine family have been bred for years (the mule, for instance; the result of a male donkey and female horse). But crossing two very different species is a trickier prospect. Not only is it biologically difficult, but ethically questionable too. Still, one could argue that evolution relies on this sort of happy accident in creating new species — the happy part being fertility. Nature abhors not just vacuums, but the inability to reproduce.
|The Toast of Botswana. Not actually made of toast.|
The “Toast of Botswana” is just such an unlikely creature. It’s the awkward offspring of the unusual — but naturally occurring — mating of a male sheep with a female goat. Apparently they were penned together, and maybe got a little drunk. Or a lot drunk. I do not think that the tourist board of Botswana is too pleased about the name of this creature. It turned out to be infertile, but didn’t act like it — after mounting everything in sight, its owners finally castrated it to stop it being a nuisance. Clearly a trait it inherited from its father. Just sayin’. They nicknamed it “the rapist.”
Scientists mixing genes in the lab come up with seemingly useless combos in the aid of practicing hybridization: glowing monkeys and square eggs and the like. OK, I’m not sure about the square egg, but the Zebroid exists.
So far, only the Scandinavians have managed to produce a Sardine Rabbit, however. How do you get a sardine and a rabbit (egg dish) to taste good? Add an entire pound of cheese.