What Happens When You Mix a Goat and a Sheep?
Recently, the geep (goat – sheep hybrid) pictured above was born on Paddy Murphy’s farm in County Kildare, Ireland. This is a very rare occurrence in nature and results when a male goat mates with a female sheep. Geeps usually are miscarried but this little fellow is reported to be in excellent health and behaving rambunctiously.
In simple terms, animal hybrids are the result of sexual reproduction between different species.
Theoretically, different species cannot successfully breed but occasionally this does happen in nature. When it does, the offspring are almost always infertile. This is exemplified through the common mule. A mule is the offspring of a horse and donkey. They are sterile and cannot reproduce.
Successful sexual reproduction ordinarilly requires the pairing of an equal number of chromosomes from each parent. Humans have 46 chromosomes in each cell, half inherited from mom and half from dad. Each animal species has a different number of chromosomes. For example, a horse has 64 and a donkey has 62. The product of a horse and a donkey — commonly known as a mule or hinny — has 63 chromosomes.
Most hybrid animals have an uneven number of chromosomes which will usually result in infertility. Without an even number of chromosomes, the genes cannot pair up properly.
Why are geeps so rare? Sheep have 60 chromosomes and goats have 54. A geep could have any variance between the two. In 2000, a geep was born in Botswana with 57 chromosomes and was found to be infertile yet possessed an active libido. In 1990, a goat-sheep hybrid was born in New Zealand. That geep also had 57 chromosomes and was infertile when mated with a ram. The newly-born Irish geep has not yet been genetically tested.
A geep is the result of sexual reproduction between a goat and a sheep. This should not be confused with a goat-sheep chimera which is the creation of a genetically manipulated embryo using goat and sheep DNA.
Other Hybrid Animals
Since a geep is so rare, the question pops up, what other strange pairings exist? Here are some:
Zebroids – A Zonkey is part zebra and donkey while a Zorse is a zebra and a horse. A Zony is a zebra and a pony.
Bovid Hybrids – A beefalo is a cross between the American bison and domestic cattle.
Canid Hybrids – Many combinations can be found among canine creatures. Coydogs are the offspring of a male coyote and a female domestic dog. Coywolves are part coyote and wolf. So far, only known to occur in captivity is hybrids of jackals and dogs. Wolf-dog hybrids are controversial because their behavior is considered to be too wild to be domesticated.
Felid Hybrids – A liger is created by a male lion and a female tiger while a Tigon is the product of a male tiger and a female lion. A Blynx is the mating of a bobcat and a lynx. A Bengal cat is the product of a small wild leopard cat and a domestic cat. A Leopon is a leopard and a lion. Jaglions are jaguar and lion.
Wholphin – This extremely rare hybrid is between a male false killer whale and a female bottlenose dolphin.
Grolar Bear – A cross of a grizzly bear and a polar bear occurs rarely in nature due to the distinctly different habitats of both.
Back to the Irish Geep
No news on what Murphy may name the young geep. In addition to his ranch, he owns and operates Murphy’s Pub. Murphy said his customers have had a few laughs over the mobile phone photos of the young hybrid. He has his dad’s coloring and is starting to grow horns. Murphy describes him as “…a goat, trapped in a lamb’s body.” His mom treats him just like a little lamb but her naturally slower gait makes it a challenge for her to keep up with his child-like curiosity and antics.