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Why Aren't Zebras Domesticated?

Updated on November 1, 2017
Techs and Specs profile image

Gaurav Verma is a creative an Automobile Engineer also a creative Technical writer.

Stone Age: History of Domestication.

Have you ever wondered why don't we ride zebras? Our planet has 140 big useful type animals on it and over the last 20,000 years our ancestors have been busy trying to ride, tame and domesticate as many of these creatures as possible. So why is it with all these wonderful animals to choose from and thousands of years of time only a handful had the right stuff to become man's best friend. 20,000 years is a long time. It was the Stone Age about this time man was just beginning to tame the wolf, this is the dog's wild ancestor.

Since the Stone Age was way before people discovered metal, this meant our ancestors had to catch animals the hard way on foot and with only the simplest of tools they could. Forget about a four-wheel drive and steel-tipped boots. After thousands of years, our ancestors only managed to domesticate 14 of the bigger sized animals by the time Columbus stepped foot in the America. Sure our ancestors tamed lots of smaller animals along the way but we're only focusing on the bigger ones, you know animals with serious teeth or hooves animals that we're a bit trickier to domesticate. Of those beastly 14 animals only the Magnificent Seven the cat, goat, sheep, horse, pig, dog and cow had the right stuff to make it to farms and homes all over the world.

So what made those original 14 animals so special. It turns out that successfully domesticated animals share particular behaviors in diet, growth rate, breeding habits, anxiety levels, social hierarchy, size, and personality.


So what was wrong with animals like the zebra, why didn't he measure up well. It looks like diet wasn't the reason. The first step to becoming a domesticated animal is to eat everything on your plate, cows, horses, and sheep will eat just about any grass or grain even better goats, pigs, dogs love to eat garbage. There is no way a stone-age man could have raised a finicky eater like the giant panda, its main food source is bamboo. The same goes for the Koala, its eucalyptus or nothing. Large carnivores would not make the list either, very most important reason, they might eat you.

The second reason it cost way too much to feed for a 500-pound meat-eater. Let's say a lion, it would take 5,000 pounds of cow and heir, but wait those cows had to eat too. So for 5,000 pounds of cow, you would need to provide 50,000 pounds of grain or grass. Okay back to our zebra. So far he's a good eater and vegetarian, but he also has to grow up fast. Ancient farmers needed animals to grow near adult size within their first year. For hundreds of years, people in India have tamed elephants but elephants need a lot to eat and it can take up to 15 years for an elephant to reach adulthood. Our ancestors didn't have that much time or food to waste.


Our zebra is mature for his age but he also needs to be lucky in love and not shy about it. When the commercial said domesticated animals needed to like long walks on the beach, that was a PG way of saying animals have to be happy to breed in captivity. Many animals have elaborate mating rituals that require either privacy or space for them to be in the mood for love. Ancient Egyptians tried unsuccessfully for generations to raise cheetahs in captivity but female cheetahs usually won't have kittens unless a potential father can chase her for several days in a long series of foot races.

Zebras never really needed that much space or privacy to reproduce in captivity but our ancestors also needed animals to be brave and not panic easily. Herbivores had to stand united in herds when danger threatened the nervy flighty types like deer kudu and gazelle are not good in domestic situations. If frightened they can run blindly and scatter slamming themselves in defenses at top speeds of 35 to 50 miles an hour. If that didn't kill them, the stress of handling them usually would. Even in today's modern deer farms, the animals have to be handled very carefully, Often with the help of calming drugs.

Zebras are pretty macho and will stick together in herds but they also have to follow a strict pecking order or what scientists call a social hierarchy with most animal herds or packs. Somebody has to be top dog or top elk, in this case, then second top dog and so on we will call this an alpha animal chain. Believe it or not, this alpha chain helps keep the peace because each animal knows its place, this also makes it easier for humans to make themselves the Alpha leader of the herd.

Cats Rules
Cats Rules

Of the Magnificent Seven, house cats are the only non-herd animals our ancestors managed to domesticate. But it turns out our ancestors never needed cats to be kept in large groups for food purposes. Try herding cats, I dare you, many people believe it is actually the cat that domesticated us. Think about it, we bring them dinner, we brush them and we even clean their toilets.

Size is one of the final factors when it comes to whether or not animals can join the domesticated club. Extremely large ones don't get to join because they would have cost our ancestors an arm and a leg to feed. Plus how in the world could Stone Age man have kept them penned? So let's reveal our zebra has passed all of the domestication tests so far, he isn't picky about his food or his girlfriend's, he doesn't panic within his herd, he's not too big or too carnivorous and he's extremely mature for his age.

So that's six of the seven domesticity traits shouldn't that be enough, think of these traits as ingredients in a birthday cake you need all the exact ingredients for a cake to taste good right. What would happen if your mom forgot to put the sugar in the mix, the same goes for animals.

Most of the world's large animals are only missing one or two ingredients, they would be perfect pals with humans if only someone would have remembered the sugar. Many of the big carnivores are just downright mean and would rather eat you. In truth, our zebra can't eat us but unfortunately, as zebras grow older they usually get meaner. The cape buffalo and the hippopotamus also suffer from a similar personality disorder.

The cape buffalo is considered the most dangerous and most unpredictable mammal in Africa, but it is actually the hippopotamus that holds the mammalian record for killing the most people in Africa per year.

So the simplest answer to why we don't ride zebras is, zebras are mean. Our zebra is perfect in every other way, he grows fast, breeds easy, eats everything inside, stays calm within his herd and he's just the right size. But it's a big bug, zebras prove too nasty for domestication. Our ancestors needed animals that were a bit friendlier animals, the Zebras cousins the horse and donkey turned out to be quite a bit nicer. That's lucky for us because of the zebra and a few of his other relatives. Several types of wild-ass have the nasty tendency to bite people and not let go.

© 2017 Gaurav Verma


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    • poppyr profile image


      23 months ago from Tokyo, Japan

      Interesting article. I didn't know that cheetahs bred by the male chasing the female in foot races! Very cool. I've sometimes wondered myself why zebras aren't domesticated since they look a bit like horses. Thanks for the insight!

    • Techs and Specs profile imageAUTHOR

      Gaurav Verma 

      23 months ago from Valsad

      Yep, totally agreed.

    • peachpurple profile image


      23 months ago from Home Sweet Home

      zebra is wild animals, they aren't horses either, they live in the wild


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