Good question – why don’t people ride zebras?

BY Marshall Brain / POSTED November 30, 2009
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Have you ever thought about this – why don’t people ride zebras?

Despite the movie Racing Stripes, zebras are not commonly domesticated. But why? People do ride horses. And zebras look a lot like horses – Zebras have four legs, hooves, manes, swishy tales, etc. and look almost exactly like horses with stripes. So why haven’t people domesticated zebras just like they domesticated horses?

There has to be a reason why. And this video explains it:

In part 1, at the 2:45 point, the video explains that there are seven traits that animals must have if they are going to be domesticated:

1) The right diet – the animal needs to be a flexible eater, not a picky eater. So horses and cows eat grass or hay or sileage or grain. Pigs, goats and dogs will eat almost anything, including garbage.

2) Tendency not to panic – Deer tend to panic. Once they do panic they take off at high speed. So they are hard to domesticate.

3) Pleasant disposition – Lions and tigers have a tendency to eat people – making them unlikely candidates for domestication.

4) Social hierarchy – herd animals with alpha hierarchies are ideal, because the other animals will follow a leader and a human can become the leader.

5) Manageable size – Animals that are too large take too much food and are hard to fence in.

6) Fast growth rate – needs to reach adult size in a year or two

7) Will breed in captivity

If you think about domesticated animals, they all have these seven traits, with one noteable exception – cats.

Zebras have all of these traits except one. If you play part two it explains the problem with zebras quite succinctly – Zebras are mean.

See also this page:

Compared to horses, zebras are pretty unpredictable. They can be very aggressive and even vicious as they get older. Plus, their body shape doesn’t take a saddle very well. Trying to train and ride a zebra is pretty dangerous.

Over the years, some zebras have been successfully trained, but as a group they just don’t lend themselves to domestication.

In the photographs on this page you can see the problem with saddling – compared to a horse, zebras tend to be a little too small for a full sized human to ride.

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