Scientists love themselves some genetic engineering. Like all uses of science, selectively breeding animals can result in creepiness -- we recently covered a handful of designer pets that seem specifically designed to haunt your dreams. But domesticated gene meddling isn't completely immune to awesomeness. Sometimes, just sometimes, what comes out of the test tube is less Cthulhu and more like the kickass pets you always wanted as a kid. For instance ...
#5. Big Jungle Cats That Won't Kill You
Unless you're a circus performer or a member of a Vegas act, chances are your interaction with big cats is limited to visits to the zoo and the occasional tiger rampage. But let's be honest: Who among us hasn't dreamed about how awesome it would be to take your jaguar or cheetah for a walk around the neighborhood? Alas, we're all too aware that even normal house cats can do some serious damage when they really put their mind to it. A big cat could (and would) just straight up claw-slap your face to next Thursday as soon as look at you.
Take the wild-ass serval, an African wild cat that is ridiculously inappropriate for snuggling:
Seen here hungrily eying your liver.
But what if science somehow combined that thing with, say, a regular house cat? And then registered the ensuing hellspawn as an official cat breed and you could buy one and name it Mr. Claws and make it wear a wacky scarf and have strange adventures with it forever?
Because that's what they totally did. The savannah cat, named to evoke its African heritage, was first introduced to the world in 1986 by Bengal breeder Judee Frank. In 2001, the International Cat Association accepted it as a newly registered breed.
Shortly thereafter, it was elected Emperor of Cats.
The fact that it's huge and ridiculously sweet-looking is just the tip of the awesome iceberg for the savannah cat. It's a lot more loyal than your average who-gives-a-shit tabby, to the point that it's comparable to a dog. And yes, you can absolutely fulfill the shit out of that "take the wild beast out for a walk" fantasy with them. What's more, the savannah cat doesn't have the aversion to water that most cats do, and some people actually take showers with them, because there is no possible way that will result in a hilarious emergency room story.
Oh, and they're also instinctively friendly toward children.
Bullying was no longer a problem for Sally.
If for some reason you still don't feel like shelling out thousands of dollars for a serval hybrid, there's always the budget version: For between $500 and $1,500, you can pick up the Pixie-Bob, the result of what is claimed to be naturally occurring trysts between barn cats and American bobcats. Of course, it pays to remember that they're also known as "Legend Cats" because there is no proof that the above scenario has ever actually occurred. But whether the Pixie-Bob is in fact part bobcat or just the result of some spectacular breeding feats, the fact remains that it does look an awful lot like a bobcat, and it has many of the more appealing features of the savannah.
#4. Silver Foxes: As Friendly as Dogs, as Independent as Cats
In the 1950s Soviet Union, a young man named Dmitry Belyaev became fascinated with the domestication of dogs from wild, ravenous wolves into the fluffy, couch-hogging companions of today. Belyaev set his sights on replicating this process, only A) much faster and B) this time instead of those fancy wolves, he went with the silver fox as his subject. And he nailed it.
New York Times
"Come to me, minions!"
Belyaev carefully selected the friendliest, tamest foxes and made them bone. In just a few fox-generations, the furballs were bonding with the scientists, craving any attention they could get. They wagged their tails more and more, started getting floppier ears and spotted coats and became more doglike in their behavior.
Today, this has resulted in a breed of foxes that is "as devoted as dogs but as independent as cats." And yes, they're totally selling these little guys as pets, with the price tag currently set at $7,000. Here, have a video of a pet silver fox pup:
Look at that thing go. Look at that little ball made of fluff and mischief and tell us you're not reaching for your wallet already.
Of course, like with every proper scientific experiment, there's a flip side to Project Silver Fox. See, Belyaev was never content with just creating cute, tame foxes. To prove that domestication and tameness were linked to a specific gene, he also sought out the meanest, most dangerous foxes and intentionally started breeding those. And that branch of his experiment was a roaring success as well. That's right -- even today, Russia is totally breeding a small army of genetically engineered, highly aggressive killer silver foxes. And they look exactly like your new, cuddly pet.
Which leaves the owner vulnerable to a dangerous switcheroo.
#3. Part Zebra, Part Pony (Or Anything Else)
Is that ... is that mule wearing novelty pantyhose? No? Those are supposed to be his actual legs?
Hahahahaha, look at that thing! Look at his stripes, abruptly ending at the thigh! He looks so fake that even he can't believe it. James Cameron would've rejected him from Avatar for looking like far too silly a mix of two species. Yet he is completely real and absolutely awesome, and has a kickass name to go with his peculiar visage. Ladies and gentlemen, meet the zonkey:
He's clocking in at nearly three times the legal limit for adorable.
You're probably familiar with the zebra, the most flamboyant member of the equine family. You might not know that it is, in fact, every bit as pimp as its striped coat implies. What we're saying is that the zebra loves his ladies. Also, he's not too particular when it comes to race: In fact, both male and female zebras can and absolutely will get down with pretty much all of their horsey relatives. This has produced some extremely curious offspring, their strange coloration only matched by their ridiculous names: Apart from the zonkey (zebra father, donkey mother), there's the zedonk (donkey dad, zebra mom) and zebrass (an alternate name for that extra mile in humiliation).
However, zebras have no concept of human language, and these zebroid hybrids are actually considered pretty awesome among their kin. They are effortlessly able to live among wild zebras and donkeys alike, and being sterile hybrids with no risk for procreation, they presumably have some pretty wild Saturday nights.
Funny Pet Wallpapers
They can score blow within hours of their birth.
Unsurprisingly, humanity has paid attention to the zebra's ability and willingness to create these various zebroids. Even less surprisingly, this has been put to use. This means that you can totally ride a zonkey:
And the breeders have ventured beyond zebra-donkey variations, too: There are any number of zebroids out there, from zebra-horse (zorse!) ...
Why not hebra?
... to zebra-ponies (zonies!):
There has even been a recorded case of a zebra getting lucky with a diminutive Shetland pony, the result of which has been dubbed the Shetbra:
Because "Zebland" sounds like a place Sacha Baron Cohen might pretend to be from.
What are the practical advantages of owning a tiny zebra-horse or zebra-pony instead of a regular one? Who cares? Look at it!