Pair of zedonks turns heads near Dexter

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

DEXTER, Mo. -- More than a few heads have turned over the past few weeks while passing the farm of Brad and Helen Hessling on County Road 612 just west of town. Two four-legged creatures that look like donkeys with zebra-striped legs can be seen romping and strolling as they become acclimated to their new surroundings.

"They're just fun," Brad Hessling said of his zedonks. "The two are full brother and sister and have never been apart."

Max and Marilyn are 6 and 7 years old and are originally from northern Illinois but were purchased by the Hesslings from an individual in Dogwood, Mo.

Zedonks Max and Marilyn stand out on a farm just outside Dexter, Mo. (Noreen Hyslop/The Daily Statesman)

The zedonk is a cross between a donkey or mule and a zebra. The characteristic zebra stripes are predominantly on the legs, but a dark stripe also appears down zedonks' backs and more subtly around their midsections. Their body style is short and blocky like donkeys. They are smaller than a horse but larger than a standard pony.

Although the Hesslings say the temperament of Max and Marilyn is always pleasant, some breeders contend that it's necessary for owners to continually spend time with the animals to keep that pleasant disposition intact.

Like horses, the zedonks feed on corn, oats and alfalfa hay. In keeping with their heritage, the sound they make resembles the bray of the donkey.

Max and Marilyn are not trained for riders, but they are accustomed to being hooked to a harness and are adept at pulling a wagon.

The Hesslings purchased the pair, along with a wagon and harness, as a package deal two weeks ago.

"We hooked them [up] for the first time the other day, and they did great," Brad Hessling said, explaining that they took a ride down the blacktop road in front of their home and the animals never faltered.

The Hesslings are no strangers to unusual animals. Max and Marilyn join Moses, a dromedary camel, and a host of other wild and domestic pets that include two alpacas, a few mini-donkeys, four bottle-fed calves, two turkeys, some chickens and a pair of ducks.

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