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    Can zebras be domesticated?


    No, zebras cannot be domesticated.

They are unpredictable and are known to attack people. To be domesticated, animals must meet certain criteria. For example, they must have a good disposition and should not panic under pressure. Zebras' unpredictable nature and tendency to attack preclude them from being good candidates for domestication. For more information about the criteria for domestication see : The Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Animal Attraction Fact Sheet: Why were so few animals domesticable?

While attempts at domestication have failed, some individuals have had success training and even hybridizing zebras! Common zebra hybrids: Zorse (horse + zebra) and Zonkey (donkey + zebra). Zebra hybridization has actually been in existence at least a century. One of the pioneers in the field was J.C. Ewart, author of The Penycuik Experiments in 1899.

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Library of Congress Web SiteFurther Reading
  • Ewart, J.C. The Penycuik experiment. London, A and C Black, 1899. 177 p.
  • Hyams, Edward. Animals in the service of man: 10,000 years of domestication. London, Dent, 1972. 209 p.
  • MacClintock, Dorcas. A natural history of zebras. New York, Charles Scribner's Son, c1976. 134 p.
  • Mungall, Elizabeth Cary and William J. Sheffield. Exotics on the range: the Texas example. College Station, Texas A&M University Press, 1994. 254 p.
  • Patent, Dorothy Hinshaw. Horses and their wild relatives. New York, Holiday House, c1981. 122 p.
  • Peel, Lynnette J. and Derek E. Tribe. Domestication, conservation, and the use of animal resources. New York, Elsevier, 1983. 357 p.

SearchFor more print resources...
Search on "domestic animals," "domestication," "hybridization," and "zebras" in the Library of Congress Online Catalog.

Photo of man on a tame zebra jumping a fence
Man on a tame zebra jumping a fence in East Africa. [between 1890 and 1923] Photographic print, LOT 11356-45 [item], LC-USZ62-40646, (b&w film copy neg.), Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Photo of a zebra-horse hybrid, or zorse,
1899 photograph of a zebra-horse hybrid, or zorse, from J.C. Ewart's The Penycuik Experiments. "Romulus: one year old."

Image of Eve, a baby zonkey.  Courtesy of ADMS
Eve, a baby zonkey. Photo courtesy of the American Donkey and Mule Society.

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 July 31, 2017
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