Ancient Egyptians were most curious regarding both domestic and wild animals as well as their procreation, magical attributes, and so forth. They did attempt to domestic several species of desert animals during the predynastic and early dynastic eras, and thus it would not be a surprise if attempts might also have been made to crossbreed certain animals – both domestic and wild. The whimsical appearance of a zonkey – as a cross between two creatures – might well have appealed.
We may never know, of course, but the speculation is nevertheless interesting and may be related to the late predynastic and early dynastic burials of various wild and domestic creatures that have recently been excavated, Some of whom could perhaps have been residents in a kind of royal zoo that contained elephants, aurochs, and other creatures.
Perhaps not surprisingly the most prized appears to be the ten-year-old male African elephant (Tomb 33) and the aurochs (Tomb 19), both requiring extraordinary efforts to acquire as probably neither were locally available at the time. Both were found alone in large, fenced tombs, wrapped in vast amounts of linen and matting. Whether they were endowed with additional grave goods remains unclear, but both were given a substantial final meal, as a great deal of it was still present inside them.
In addition to half-digested items of settlement debris, detailed analysis of the botanical content of the elephant’s final meal indicate that he dined on river plants, acacia twigs and emmer wheat, both chaff and grains, suggesting he was well maintained…
I believe (some) DNA studies have been conducted – or attempted – on various of the animal remains but do not have details here with me. More details can be found here –
Here are a few other egyptomania links – brought to you via April Fool’s day!