Physical Description

Indian runners are tall, slender ducks that stand upright and have long necks. Early importers referred to them as “penguin ducks.” They have small wings and do not fly. They come in a variety of colors including black, white, chocolate, Cumberland blue, fawn, mallard, white, and trout.


This breed of domestic duck originated in Indonesia. Stone carvings indicate that Indian runners have been around for at least 2,000 years. They were first imported into Europe in the early 19th century and have been crossed with many other breeds to create new breeds such as Khaki Campbells and Buff Orpingtons.

Introduction to North America

Indian runner ducks are now bred in many parts of the world, including the United States.


Indian runner ducks are remarkable for their elegant and unique shape but are especially valued for their prolific egg-laying. They are also kept as pets and raised as show birds.

At the Maryland Zoo

The Maryland Zoo features an Indian runner duck among its Animal Ambassadors, which are introduced to audiences in education programs on and off grounds.


  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Subphylum: Vertebrata
  • Class: Aves
  • Genera: Anas
  • Species: platyrhynchos domesticus

What is an Animal Ambassador?

The Maryland Zoo refers to its special collection of education program animals as “Animal Ambassadors.” The Zoo currently cares for more than 60 Animal Ambassadors, representing more than 40 species, both native and exotic. These animals are managed separately from the rest of the Zoo’s collection and cannot be seen on exhibit at the Zoo. However, many can be seen up close and personal on a rotating basis at Creature Encounters, the Zoo’s outdoor education center; at camp and school programs at the Zoo; as featured participants in community-based Outreach programs; and at special events on and off Zoo grounds.

Animal Ambassadors spend countless hours working with their human handlers, developing bonds of trust and communication that will allow them to appear in front of audiences large and small. They are not show animals. They behave naturally, focusing audiences’ attention on their natural behaviors and adaptations and giving living, breathing meaning to concepts and topics that students may be studying.

Animal Ambassadors travel all over the state of Maryland and beyond, and many also make local and national media appearances, educating about wildlife while representing the Zoo and its commitments to animal welfare and conservation.

What is The Animal Embassy?

The Animal Embassy at The Maryland Zoo is an off-exhibit area that is not open to the public. It is where the Zoo’s “Animal Ambassadors,” or education program animals, live. The Embassy is home to more than 60 individual animals representing more than 40 different species. It is staffed by its own dedicated group of keepers and volunteers and has both indoor and outdoor living space for the animals.