It’s not unusual in the mid-valley to see long-necked llamas or fluffy white Great Pyrenees guard dogs standing watch over flocks of sheep and goats in lush green pastures.
But motorists on Airport Road west of Lebanon have been doing a double-take for the last month as they pass a farm near the Willamette Speedway. And their eyes aren’t playing tricks on them.
The 120 Boer goats owned by Norman and Rosalinda Vizina blend right into local farm life. But their black- and white-striped zebra named Zinfandel generates a lot of rubbernecking.
“She guards the goats,” Norman Vizina said. “She’s extremely protective of them.”
Vizina is retired after working for the city of Sacramento. The family began raising goats several years ago as 4-H projects for their daughters. Their hobby brought them to Oregon several times a year for goat shows, and the couple grew to love the state’s beauty.
“My wife moved up here a year ago and I came a month ago,” Vizina said. “It’s so beautiful here. I have always wanted to live in Oregon.”
“Lady Zin,” as the zebra is known, is about 10 years old, and the Vizinas have owned her since she was 10 days old.
“She used to sit on my lap and I would bottle feed her,” Vizina said.
He said the family purchased Lady Zin on a bet.
“My wife and a neighbor had a bet about who could find and buy a zebra first,” Vizina said. “My wife won. She got rid of her motorcycle and got a four-legged zebra. We love her. I love watching her run in the fields.”
He said zebras will kick, bite and ram anything that threatens them or the animals they are protecting.
“We had a steer and she kept chasing it through our fences, so we got rid of the steer,” Vizina said.
Lady Zin has had three offspring and the Vizinas are in the process of buying a male zebra to breed her again.
“We will probably only let her have two or three more foals,” he said.
Zebras can be crossbred with both donkeys and horses, but their offspring are often sterile. Their offspring also have a variety of stripe patterns, sometimes not covering the animal’s entire body.
Vizina said Lady Zin is about 14 hands tall — about 56 inches — and weighs about 550 pounds. Like horses, they are herd animals and their diet consists mainly of fresh grass or hay.
“You don’t have to work much on their hooves unlike a horse,” he said. “Their hooves are pretty soft and just walking on hard dirt keeps them worn down.”
Like fingerprints and snowflakes, no two zebras have identical stripes, Vizina said.
Although she's a newcomer to Linn County, Lady Zin has already developed quite a following.
“People stop every day and take pictures of her,” Vizina said. “Probably two or three times a day people drive up and ask if they can get a closer look at her.”
Vizina said he enjoys watching Lady Zin run, noting that “she is very fast.”
He added that the zebra was named after a wine, which is in tradition with how his family has named several of their goats.
Mid-valley residents will likely get used to living around a zebra, since Vizina said the animals can live to be up to 30 years old.
“We’re very happy to have moved here,” he said. “We are going to have to get used to chilly mornings and we’re trying to get ready for winter.”
The same might be said for Lady Zin, since zebras are native to the plains of Africa. So far she seems to have settled well into her new surroundings. In addition to taking care of the goats, she likes to wander near a neighbor’s farm and spend time with an Angus cow.
She’s Oregon-friendly already.