Zebra, camel and other non-native animals grazing near Old Mendon Road

Mendon – The Old Mendon Road is never a dull drive with beautiful trees, farm houses and horses. But now drivers will have to do a double-take when they see a zebra, a zonkey (half donkey, half zebra), a miniature donkey and a camel amidst 25 horses out to pasture. Bradley Tolman, owner of Tolman Legacy Ranch LLC in Mendon, has recently been putting the group of non-native animals out to pasture, which is visible from the Old Mendon Road. His 80-mother cows would not cross the icy field to eat the hay he’d spread in the field. Not wanting the feed to go to waste, he put out the 25 horses and their animal buddies who are gladly eating the hay, Tolman said. Curious on-lookers and photo-opportunists have been taking in the zoo-like experience, creating a whole new water-cooler conversation this week. Melissa Keller, a Logan resident, said she heard about the animals and took her 5-year-old son, Miah, to see them. “It is so fun to take my son to see animals up-close that we only ever see in books or at the zoo,” Keller said. This is the first time the group of animals has been out where people can see them from the Old Mendon Road, Tolman said. “We like to see how happy the animals make other people,” Tolman said. “We are as about as weird as our animals, but they do make people really happy. And that makes us happy.” Tolman said he’s had the camel, named Moses, for 5 or 6 years. It is a dromedary camel, meaning it has one hump. Moses does not get too cold in the snowy winters of Cache Valley, Tolman said, because he has 3-inch thick woolly hair. “He is probably the warmest animal on the farm,” Tolman said. According to Animal Bytes on seaworld.org, dromedary camels are native to the Middle East and northern Africa. They can weigh up to 1,500 pounds and live for up to 50 years. Moses, however, was born in Colorado, Tolman said. Tolman takes his donkeys, including miniature donkey named Jethro, to live nativity scenes and decided he wanted a camel to go along with them. He was looking to rent a camel for the nativity but could not find one, so he traded a horse for Moses to a lady in Colorado who raises the camels. “Moses has been in parades and nativities and just loves to let people love on him all day long,” Tolman said. “He is so spoiled and loves to hang his head over fences to let people maul on him.” How does little Jethro, a miniature donkey, get along with such big animals? Pretty well. “Jethro thinks he is 12-feet tall and bulletproof,” Tolman said. “He doesn’t let anybody push him around; he thinks he’s a little man.” A few years after Tolman got Moses the same woman from Colorado called Tolman. She was in a bind and needed to sell her zonkey, named Zeb. Tolman said he couldn’t pass up the good deal and jumped on it. The zonkey, according to a-z-animals.com, is the offspring of a male zebra and a female donkey. The zonkey cannot breed although the parents belong to the horse family, which makes the cross-mating possible. The zonkey is extremely rare in the wild but zoos have been able to successfully breed the animal. Zeb the zonkey has striped fur on his legs and a mono color coat on top. He’s been part of the family for three years and now has a brother, of sorts, a full-bred zebra who still needs a name, Tolman said. The zebra is horse-like in that he will eat out of grain bucket, but won’t let a halter be put on him. Also, he has hair and hooves like a horse and gets along fine in the winter. “All the animals get along great, although the camel has not been castrated so he can be a bully,” Tolman said. “But the field is big enough the other animals can get away from him. When the horses were first introduced to the camel they thought he was a monster that was going to eat them and Moses chased them around for the first few days.” Among the unusual mix of animals is also a llama which Tolman ‘babysits’ for a friend as well as a couple of full-sized donkeys and 80-mother cows Tolman owns. “We know they create excitement in the community and people must think ‘What kind of crazy people would own them?'” Tolman said. “But we’re opportunists and if another unusual animal came along we’d probably jump on it.” Tolman and his family have lived in Cache Valley for 12 years. The family moved from Layton to live on the Mendon property on which they built a home and barn for the animals. “I’ve always been interested in animals,” Tolman said. “We use a sleigh or wagon to feed the draft horses in the winter. They are just part of the family. We couldn’t ever sell them. We love them too much.”

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