Is it possible to tame a zebra?
Why were zebras never domesticated?
Researchers suspect that the horse was domesticated around 5500 years ago. A 2012 study by the University of Cambridge found the origin of the domesticated horse in the Western Eurasian steppe, namely in today's Ukraine, southwestern Russia and Kazakhstan. From there, the domesticated horse spread across Europe and Asia.
Since the horse was used by humans in agriculture, as a means of transport and also in warfare, it has played a not insignificant role in the development of human society. When Genghis Khan conquered half the world in the 12th century, he did so on horseback. He would not have been able to do this without his small, extremely robust mounts, as historian Morris Rossabi of New York's Columbia University writes. The DNA of Genghis Khan is still found in 0.5 percent of men on earth, as a much-cited study from 2003 found.
The origins of man are in Africa. So why didn't the people there do the obvious and domesticate a potentially useful animal like the zebra that lived on the same continent? Evolution provides the answer, writes equine scientist Carol Hall from Nottingham Trent University in England in an article on The Conversation website.
Zebras fight back
Zebras, of which there are three types in Africa (the Grevy, the mountain and the steppe zebra), are extremely well adapted to their environment. An environment that is full of predators. Therefore, like all equines, zebras are flight animals, but have developed a much wilder nature than horses and donkeys, their closest relatives. When attacked by predators such as lions, cheetahs or hyenas, they defend themselves with teeth and hooves. They bite, they kick out - a kick by a zebra can cause a lion to flee. And precisely because humans like the zebras developed in Africa, humans were nothing new to the zebras, unlike the wild horses of the Eurasian steppes, but simply another threat against which they had to defend themselves.
Walter Rothschild in 1895 with his zebra carriage.
Their temperament saved the zebras from being domesticated. And it's not that you haven't tried. There were famous attempts, for example, in colonial times. The people in Africa knew for a long time that zebras could not be tamed, but the white occupiers had yet to find out. They were also able to record individual successes. The British baron, banker and zoologist Lionel Walter Rothschild succeeded in harnessing zebras to his carriage and driving them through London, which caused quite a stir.
But because individual, tamed zebras repeatedly made life difficult for people with their unpredictable behavior, these attempts were soon given up again. The zebra stays wild.
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