Zebra Domestication

Zebras evolved among the Old World horses within the last 4 million years, but can they be domesticated like their relatives?

Two zebra rest in the Serengeti

Throughout history there have been various attempts to domesticate zebra for a number of reasons, both wacky and serious.

Zebras have a keen tolerance to diseases spread by biting insects. This tolerance is thought to be one reason for the zebras dazzling stripes; could they help to keep the insects from biting?


With this increased tolerance it was thought that they may be perfect for riding in Africa, which lead to many attempts to placate them into carrying a rider. Although zebras tend to be more unpredictable and have a tendency to panic under stress there have been a few cases of domestication for riding. Captain Horace Hayes broke a mountain zebra stallion in two days in 1891 and, in 1907, Dr Rosendo Ribeiro of Kenya, used a riding zebra for house calls.

Ultimately, crosses between any species of zebra and a horse, pony, donkey or ass, reffered to as "zebroids" are a preferred method of achieving a patient and willing ridable zebra, a cross-species creation made famous by Queen Charlotte.

In one remarkable case, Lord Rothschild used zebras to draw a carriage through London, to the no-doubt delight of eyewitnesses.