A classic hand-coloured(?) image postcard depicting a Tijuana ‘zebra’,
from my assortment (Photograph of this image postcard © Dr Karl Shuker)

In 2004, once I visited the
metropolis of Tijuana in Baja California, Mexico, simply throughout the border from San
Diego in California, USA, I noticed one of many well-known ‘Tijuana zebras’ (aka
zonkeys, however to not be confused with true zonkeys, that are zebra x donkey
click on right here for a ShukerNature survey of zonkeys, zorses, and zeedonks). For sure, these eyecatching equids will not be actual zebras, however
as an alternative are donkeys humanely painted with stripes utilizing girls’s hair dye to
make them appear like zebras for photo-opportunities well-liked with vacationers –
besides with me, that’s.

Bizarrely, I failed not solely to
take a single {photograph} of the one ‘zebra’ that I noticed, but additionally to grab the chance
of shopping for an official posed picture of me with it (my solely excuse for such remiss
behaviour being that again then, I did not realise simply how iconic and distinctive an
side of Tijuana these animals are), and even right this moment, over 16 years later, I
nonetheless remorse not doing so. Thankfully, I’ve a minimum of been in a position to buy on-line
some glorious classic image postcards depicting numerous Tijuana ‘zebras’
from bygone a long time, so these must suffice. One instance from my
assortment opens this current ShukerNature weblog article, and this is one other


Additionally from my assortment, a second classic hand-coloured(?) image
postcard depicting a Tijuana ‘zebra’ (Photograph of this image postcard (Photograph of
this image postcard © Dr Karl Shuker)

However when (and, above all, why!) did this decidedly
unusual custom of portray stripes on donkeys in Tijuana start? (Certainly, it
is a practice so intimately related to this metropolis that even its skilled
basketball staff is known as after these curious creatures – the Tijuana Zonkeys.)

might range (as a sure majestic woman apparently as soon as mentioned about a completely
completely different matter…), however the majority of sources that I’ve learn on the topic agree
that it arose throughout or instantly previous to the World Warfare 2 interval of the
Nineteen Forties. Ever since playing in Mexico had been declared unlawful, in 1935, the
ensuing closure of Tijuana’s on line casino, hitherto an awesome vacationer draw, had
created an awesome void that by some means wanted to be stuffed if vacationers have been to proceed
visiting the town, however how?

An uncommon Tijuana ‘zebra’, inasmuch as its coat has not been whitened with powder, its stripes having been painted straight over its untreated coat’s regular background colouration as an alternative (© Damaged Sphere/Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0 licence)

Remembering {that a} pair of donkeys with carts that used to
stand exterior the on line casino had all the time been a favorite, frequently-photographed
attraction, a few of the metropolis centre’s enterprising youths come across the money-spinning
thought of bringing in donkeys with richly ornamented carts that vacationers may very well be
photographed with, however this time for a charge.

Positive sufficient, they proved highly regarded and
additionally very profitable, changing into a standard sight alongside Avenida Revolucíon
(Revolution Avenue), extensively frequented by partying vacationers, however there was
one main drawback. Again within the Nineteen Forties, commonplace on a regular basis pictures was virtually
solely of the black-and-white selection, which meant that Tijuana’s predominantly
unicoloured, monochromatic donkeys hardly confirmed up within the
ensuing pictures. If solely there was a option to give these animals extra visible



Two early b/w pictures (the second sepia-tinted) of Tijuana ‘zebras’ from 1944 (public area)

There may be a lot controversy regarding who
originated the novel thought of portray black stripes on Tijuana’s tourist-magnet
donkeys to attain the required stage of distinction for photographic functions,
however, no matter his identification, by the tip of the Nineteen Forties Avenida Revolucíon was
dwelling to numerous these home-made zebras, and a brand new Tijuana custom was
duly born. Furthermore, to optimize the extent of distinction exhibited by them, the
donkeys normally (although not all the time) have a white powder utilized to their coats earlier than the black
stripes are painted on, as was the case with the person who I noticed (click on right here to view a brief video on YouTube of a typical Tijuana ‘zebra’).

By the late Nineteen Seventies, no fewer than 25
‘zebras’ with their house owners may very well be encountered in Avenida Revolucíon, every
with their very own particular allotted spot for attracting vacationer commerce. But by the
time of my go to in 2004, this quantity had decreased considerably, due in no
small option to the precipitous fall within the variety of vacationers visiting from
throughout the border within the USA for the reason that dreadful occasions of 9/11. A decade later,
furthermore, in keeping with a 2013 report issued by Washington D.C.’s Nationwide
Public Radio, solely three Avenida Revolucíon ‘zebras’ remained.


this specific Tijuana ‘zebra’ was photographed in Might 2004, i.e. simply weeks
earlier than I visited Tijuana – so in view of how few specimens have been nonetheless current
by then, it may nicely be the exact same animal that I noticed there (public area)

In an try to elicit elevated
curiosity and metropolis satisfaction in its fake zebras, a yr later, in 2014, they have been
formally declared a part of Tijuana’s cultural heritage by the Cultural Heritage Council
of the State of Baja California in northern Mexico. However, its choice was
revoked in 2017, following protests from animal-rights activists, with the
unnamed federal decide accountable for this authorized reversal ruling that as a result of dwelling
entities will not be actual property, they can’t be thought-about a part of Tijuana’s
cultural heritage. That call doesn’t stop these few ‘zebras’ nonetheless
present from persevering with to ply their commerce, by way of their house owners, on Avenida
Revolucíon, though the activists have said that they would like
life-sized fibre-glass replicas for use, quite than the dwelling animals

At current, the survival of Tijuana’s
longstanding custom of its tourist-touting pseudo-zebras stays unsure.
I’ve by no means learn or heard about any claims of their house owners mistreating them, so
so long as they’re certainly nicely cared for and never confused by publicity to
vacationers, it appears a disgrace if these celebrated equine ambassadors for Tijuana have been
to vanish from Avenida Revolucíon the place they’ve introduced such color and
distinctive attraction for thus lengthy.



(High) A sepia-tinted
b/w picture of a Tijuana ‘zebra’ snapped in 1949 (public area); (Backside) One thing completely different, a Tijuana ‘panda’!
a Tijuana donkey painted to appear like an enormous panda as an alternative of a zebra, snapped in 1960 (© proprietor unknown to me regardless of in depth on-line searches reproduced right here on a strictly non-commercial Truthful Use foundation for academic/overview functions solely)

Lastly: though the Tijuana ‘zebras’
will not be cryptids, I can solely reveal right here on ShukerNature a direct hyperlink
between them and cryptozoology, courtesy of the pleasant {photograph} offered
under, which was snapped in 1974. Depicted along with his household throughout a
vacation in Tijuana, sporting the sombrero labeled Pancho, and aptly garbed in a
striped sweater, the little boy sitting upon a Tijuana ‘zebra’ grew as much as
develop into one in every of right this moment’s most well-known cryptozoologists. Any guesses as to his

In truth, it is none apart from my
longstanding pal from Texas, Ken Gerhard, who very kindly emailed me this household
picture for my article once I talked about to him fairly some time in the past now that I used to be
planning to weblog concerning the Tijuana ‘zebras’ on ShukerNature. Thanks Ken! And
now, finally, I’ve completed so.


Gerhard, sitting upon a Tijuana ‘zebra’ as a teenager along with his household in 1974 throughout a
vacation in Tijuana (© Ken Gerhard)


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *