Animal’s Daily Zebra News

Ever wondered why you can’t find saddle zebras for sale?  Here may be the answer.  Excerpt:

Like horses and donkeys, zebras belong to the Equidae family (known as equids). The three species are so closely related that they can interbreed and form hybrids such as a zedonk (a cross between a male zebra and a female donkey), a zorse (the offspring of a male zebra and a female horse), and zonie (hybrid between a zebras and ponies). But unlike their cousins, zebras resisted submitting to humans. Why is that? After all, zebras are native to Africa, the cradle of humanity.

It may all have to do with natural selection. Zebras and horses diverged from a common ancestor around 4-4.7 million years ago, and each became adapted to their particular environments. Herds of wild horses in North America and Europe were initially kept as food animals, but later became accustomed to humans. After the advent of agriculture 12,000 years ago, horses proved their worth in transportation and warfare, which prompted humans to invest time and effort into domesticating them by selectively breeding the tamest individuals.

But unlike wild horses, zebras in the open African savanna had many more predators to worry about, including fierce lions, lightning-fast cheetahs, and cunning hyenas. As such, natural selection forged zebras into very reactive animals that are ready to leap at the slightest sign of danger. Zebras are particularly feisty and will greatly resist getting captured.

Despite their poney-like size, some zebras have managed to kill attacking lions with a single back kick. They’re not less menacing from the front either, as they’re known to pack a savage bite. Zebras also have a hardwired ducking reflex, which greatly hinders their capture by lasso or other methods. Finally, zebras have no family structure and no hierarchy, unlike wild horses that live in herds and have a structured order.

I suspect that last may have a lot to do with it.

Look at dogs.  Wolves, from which domestic dogs descended, live in a rather looser social order than most folks think, but they are still social animals.  Cattle are herd animals, and wild bovine herds generally follow a matriarch.  Horses likewise.  But zebra herds aren’t really “herds” so much as just big gangs, sticking together for mutual protection.  From what little I’ve read about them (full disclosure, I studied Biology with a strong emphasis on behavior in college) they don’t have a herd matriarch (or patriarch, for that matter) and are no more a structured herd than a school of fish.

It’s an interesting little behavioral phenomenon, when two animals are close enough to produce offspring, albeit sterile offspring, and yet so different behaviorally.