Zebras are hostile, unpredictable, and resourceful due to their native environment. They defend themselves to stay wild and free because they see us as predators.
When you think of a zebra, you probably picture a black and white striped animal that appears to be somewhere between a horse and a donkey. Some people would see a miserable young zebra trapped on the unforgiving African plains, surrounded by predators, while others might imagine “Marty” from Madagascar!
They look like cute, defenseless animals, but they can bite and kick in a last-ditch effort to defend themselves. Zebras are very miserable! Unless they are? Why don’t we ride zebras like horses if they were the docile and gentle creatures we perceive them to be? It would surely look more elegant than a typical horse, right?
The Human Colonization Analogy
If historical accounts of human civilization are to be believed, Homo sapiens initially arose in Africa before “colonizing” various regions of Eurasia. We were roaming, killing and enslaving other local wildlife as a “species” in those places. For example, this happened when we domesticated native North American horses. The horses initially had no idea how to react to people, as they were a new and unknown threat.
The first time a horse and a person met, something like this would have happened:
Horse: Hey buddy, what’s that thing? (to a person) It’s not particularly hairy and it’s rather small. That is something I have never seen before. Wait and see what happens.
1st man: Wow! That animal there is quite attractive. Can we eat it?
Man 2: Ouch! See how it works. We already have enough to eat. Let’s just ride this to move faster!
After that discussion, it was concluded that these wild animals needed to be tamed. Many evolutionary processes occurred as people and horses continued to colonize new areas. Horses, however, never acquired the fear or flight response of humans. It seemed as if they changed into calmer, more composed versions of themselves. Unfortunately, there are currently wild horses practicing survival as people are unable to keep the environment in balance. The wild horses you see running around in the movies aren’t technically wild, as they are “feral” horses, descendants of domesticated horses.
Why mankind failed to domesticate zebras?
Zebras are native to the same African plains where humans first appeared, so they were familiar with our species. Horses were the only commonly used form of transportation in Africa until human colonization finally swept across the continent. All transportation and communication networks were built around horses. Horses are not indigenous to Africa. Therefore, humans began to consider alternatives. Zebras, which appear to be a cross between horses and donkeys, were the ideal choice. Or so they believed.
As stated earlier, the zebras were used to us and our ways. They perceived us as predators, unlike the North American wild horses that were not used to human behavior. The zebras knew that these cave dwellers hunted them and they had to deal with lions, cheetahs, hyenas and humans in addition to these other predators. Consequently, they acquired the necessary instincts and reflexes to resist attacks from various predators. Animals take on traits and personalities as they change over time; certain behavioral tendencies have even been assimilated into the biochemistry of their brains. Zebras were aware of human proclivities and treated them with suspicion, although horses did not share this trait.
Zebras do not meet the requirements for domestication as people choose animals with the following qualities:
- temperament stability
- Captive breeding
- absence of aggressiveness
It didn’t take long for observers to realize that zebras can suddenly become violent and feral, even harming members of their species. They hate being confined as they are migratory and do not maintain territories like lions.
They can severely harm anyone close to them due to their aggressive personality and powerful physical build. Zebras have made it clear that not all animals can be tamed.