I recently visited Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo and found my attention drawn towards three zebras roaming about. While not often shared, I’ve always been a fan of zebras. But less a fan of zoos.
While walking around the exhibitions, an interesting question arose: can you ride a zebra like a horse? To break up the monotony of the workday, I decided to conduct a little investigation and educate myself.
Apparently, there are entire lists of traits that animals must have to become properly domesticated. For example, domesticated animals shouldn’t be picky eaters and they should have a pleasant disposition. They should reach adult size within a couple years, and then stay that manageable size for the rest of their lives. Animals that don’t have tendencies to panic and that respect social hierarchy tend to domesticate well also.
People who understand more about zebras than what a Google search provides say that zebras are unpredictable and tend to become overly aggressive as they age. They also seem pretty awkward to saddle up. Believe it or not, breeders have actually crossed zebras with horses and donkeys to see what happens. There are no practical purposes for zorses or zonkeys, and besides being sick and twisted, this type of breeding frequently leads to genetic deformities and rare diseases. But I’ll leave that controversy for another day.
Although zebra’s are not naturally designed for riding or domestication, some people are defying the odds and doing it anyway. An English racehorse trainer named Bill Turner made news by training his zebra, Zebedee, to trot around his 300-acre farm and take him to the local pub.
Although he did arrive for a couple pints and a lot of chuckles, zebras’ unpredictable nature and tendency to panic makes them pretty poorly suited for riding…even if you have $7,000+ to buy one like Mr. Turner did.
Considering I can barely ride a horse without getting spooked, I think I’ll stick to watching documentaries with zebras running around in their natural environment and leave zebra riding fantasies to 1980s movies.