Hoaxes & Rumors

Golden Zebra: Real or Hoax?

Golden Zebra: Real or Hoax?

An image that has been circulating online for several years claims to show a rare golden zebra. Is this image real or fake?

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The image is real, but it has been digitally enhanced.

This rare zebra named Zoe was born on Sept. 16, 1998 on the Hawaiian island of Molokai. She currently lives at the Three Ring Ranch Exotic Animal Sanctuary above the town of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The ranch’s website explains her unusual appearance:

Her unusual color is due to her having “amelanosis”. She is not an albino. She has striking gold stripes and blue eyes. In horses, there is a similar condition called “Lethal White Foal Syndrome” which is associated with the occurrence of other serious birth defects. Although this color variation occasionally occurs in wild herds, the animals would likely survive only a few days at best. This is probably because zebras use their stripes as camouflage to blend in with the rest of herd.

The ranch states that there have been only two other “white” zebras in captivity, one a century ago, and one in Japan in the 1970’s. Zoe is said to be experiencing poor night vision as a result of her age.

Enhanced Image

The image of Zoe being circulated has been digitally enhanced to make Zoe’s stripes appear more golden than they really are (see original here and another here). In reality, her stripes have a more subtle tone, as can be seen in the photos below.

The first image below is the enhanced “golden” image being circulated, followed by two unaltered photos of Zoe.

golden zebra

This “golden” zebra is real but this photo has been enhanced.

Zoe the golden zebra

Zoe’s true colors are still impressive.

Zoe the Zebra

This is an unaltered photo of Zoe.


Below is a short video which summarizes the information presented here.

Bottom Line

A photograph circulating online of a rare zebra with gold stripes and blues eyes is real, but the image has been enhanced to make the colors appear brighter than they really are. This is evident by comparing the enhanced photo with unaltered pictures. The zebra has a rare condition called “amelanosis” and currently lives on a ranch in Hawaii.


  • Zoe (ThreeRingRanch.org)

Updated February 22, 2015
Originally published May 2013

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  • Lisa Paulsel Hart

    Lethal white is a genetic condition found most notably in Overo patterned paint horses. It is not the white coat that causes death, it is the deformed internal organs of the newborn that does not allow proper digestion or defecation. Two parts to the single condition but it’s the all white coat that signals the internal condition. This zebra is leucistic which is an extreme dilute coat and blue eyes. Albino almost always have red/ pink eyes.

  • Chloe B

    Not sure if this is an accurate equivalent, but lethal whites do not simply die after a few days. As the author states, a lethal white zebra is simply unable to survive in the wild because it needs stripes for camouflage/protection. This zebra has been able to survive in captivity. The lethal white phenomenon occurs in dogs, the dogs are typically deaf, blind, or both and can thrive as normal with proper care.

  • Stephanie

    Sorry to be picky, but how is lethal white syndrome in any way similar to this? As the name suggests, a foal born with lethal white syndrome dies within a few days. Completely different thing.

  • RonnieSJ

    Even the unaltered image make her a beautiful, ethereal creature. Could you imagine her walking out of a mist, towards you?

    • waffles

      Agreed! There is no need to alter this beautiful animal!

  • keelin

    Fun fact, the original usage of the the “golden zebra” was actually a description of the przewalski’s Wild horse. C:

  • Ramona

    Thank you for clearing this up! So many thinks are on the net, that are less than trustworthy anymore, that websites like yours are deeply appreciated! Yes, Zoe is beautiful, even un-enhanced!

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