When people tried to domesticate zebras, 1890-1940

There has always been a great interest in the domestication and training of zebras in the form of riding and harnessing animals. In the 1760s, the French naturalist Buffon believed that zebras could replace horses and there were rumors in Paris that the Dutch had already trained a team of zebras to pull a cart.

For European colonists who ruled Africa in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the zebra's resistance to diseases carried by tsetse flies was something worth taking advantage of.

In addition, the colonists tried to adapt the local fauna to their use, as often imported European livestock did not thrive in the new conditions.

Ultimately, efforts to domesticate zebras were largely unsuccessful and this is why Africans were not able to domesticate them in the first place. Unlike horses, which are naturally friendlier and more laid-back, zebras spend their lives being cautious.

To survive in a difficult African environment where there is an abundance of large predators including lions, tigers, cheetahs, hyenas and crocodiles, the zebra evolved into a particularly alert, responsive animal that runs when faced with danger. He also has a powerful reaction if captured.

In other words, natural selection has bred zebras to be timid, flighty, and brutally aggressive when in immediate danger. They can even kill a lion with one kick. Familiarity with human hunter-gatherers may have also fueled a stronger defense response in zebras.

Although it is possible to tame individual zebras, this species was not a good candidate for domestication. Colonists once saw the zebra as an alternative to the mule. Although easily broken to harness, the zebra has less stamina than a mule and is more liable to panic when startled.

Colonial German forces in German East Africa were particularly interested in taming zebras for riding, pack animals, and draft animals.

He also had a program of crossing zebras with horses to create a hybrid that was resistant to diseases that hit horses, but which were resistant to zebras.

During this time, it was quite common for the eccentric elite around the world to have zebra carts as seen in some photographs.

The zoologist Walter Rothschild trained some zebras in England to pull a cart, which he took to Buckingham Palace to display the zebra-like character to the public. However, he did not ride on them because he realized that they were too small and aggressive.

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