Watusi, Reindeer and Zonkeys, Oh my!

A Zonkey, a zebra-donkey mix, is on display in the Exotic Animal Barn at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede through tomorrow.  - Photo by Jesse Beals
A Zonkey, a zebra-donkey mix, is on display in the Exotic Animal Barn at the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede through tomorrow.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

Twisting the common and bringing a different flair to the Fair this year is the Exotic Animal Barn.

Proving there’s more to see than chickens, goats and pigs, the Kitsap County Fair & Stampede board members agreed something different would bring a new look to life on the farm.

Featuring exotic animals that came from across the state, the barn includes a zebra-donkey mix (affectionately known as a Zonkey), reindeer, miniature goats, highland cattle, Jacobs sheep, cashmere goats, angora goats, alpacas and even a Watusi.

An idea that has been discussed for many years, the opportunity to have an exotic animal display presented itself this year when barn space became available.

“We had some free space and it’s something we have continually talked about for a number of years,” said Kitsap County Fair & Stampede Assistant Livestock Director Cassie O’Hara-McLaren. “The focus of the alternative livestock is really awesome ... it’s a way to exhibit alternative ways to show people (about alternative livestock).”

Sharon Howard, who breeds highland cattle in Port Orchard, said when she and her husband, Jay, decided they wanted to begin breeding cattle, a neighbor told them to breed highlands because they are aesthetically pleasing and are very docile animals.

“The calves are just adorable,” she added with a laugh. “They loved to be brushed ... and scratched. It’s a grooming kind of thing.”

With three different cow representatives, baby Ishbel, mother Nicole and Tavie, Howard said she wanted to show the different stages of how the cattle looked at certain ages.

“The young have the most hair,” Howard said, adding that the highland cattle are a beef breed that’s low in cholesterol. “Because they have such thick hair, the cattle doesn’t need a lot of saturated fat (to stay warm).”

Howard added that she has had some school classes come out to their farm to take a tour of the cattle and her other livestock.

“We would love to have more people come out and see our animals,” she added with a laugh.

Included with the highland cattle, some of the favored animal displays was the Zonkey, who bared the body of a donkey, but the stripes of a zebra on its underbelly and legs and the Watusi, who looked like a regular range cattle, with a 4-foot horn span. With its majestic appearance attracting multiple visitors to its stall, the Watusi also is referred to as “cattle of kings.” With horns that are long and symmetrical, and a base large and proportional to horn length, the Watusi was a favorite among many Fair-goers.

“This was our trial year ... we’ll assess after this year,” O’Hara-McLaren said. “So far (the response) has been overwhelming.”

On display through tomorrow, the Exotic Animal Barn is a great chance for animal lovers to get an up-close look at the more unusual side of animals bred on local farms.

“I would anticipate having something very similar to this next year,” O’Hara-McLaren added.

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