Beautiful, deadly, and darn near impossible to tame, the plains zebra occupies a unique niche within the animal kingdom. In a harsh, unfriendly climate riddled with predators and human influence, the zebra struggles to stay alive. What are zebras really like? Well, to be honest, zebras possess the temperament of jerks.But before you bemoan their behavior, bad boy zebras use their belligerence as a form of survival. Zebras face challenges unparalleled to other herbivores, and as such have adapted some crazy cool defense techniques to survive.
As it stands, even with its sick survival skills, the endangered plains zebra has faced a population decline of an overwhelming 50% in under two decades. These zebra facts highlight their critical endangerment and remind us why we should respect these regal creatures. Zebras are, if nothing else, resilient. Cheers to the zebra, a wild beast that refuses to be tamed, let alone domesticated.
From the point-of-view of these striped equids, domestication is for organisms who are boring, and ugly, and serious. Over the course of human history, zebras have proven difficult, nay, impossible, to tame. Their utter refusal to be broken not only is admirable, but also scientifically important. Living in the heavily predatory environment of Africa for millions of years lead to the zebra's aggressive behavior, a testament to the continent's accelerated rate of evolution. It appears cohabiting and competing with circle of life high-rollers like lions and leopards rubbed off on the herbivores, turning them into combative and resistant survivors.
A set of unique features and behaviors makes zebras pretty much impossible to ride. The zebra is the only horse with a ducking reflex, which allows them to effectively dodge a lasso. As such, saddling up a zebra proves to mostly be a futile endeavor. Additionally, zebras never exactly fit the ancient criteria for domestication, which is a long list that includes “people friendliness,” a trait zebras abandoned long ago. So while their equid cousins carried humans cross-country on their backs, zebras were left to openly graze and nimbly learn the lay of the land; because of this, they're not even a little bit intimidated by humans. Zebras also make common prey for lions, meaning your zebra steed is more of a trap than a form of transportation.
One of this wild equid’s awe-inspiring traits lies in its ability to grow from infancy to adulthood in under an hour, at least in respect to getting around. Astonishingly, a zebra infant, or foal, can walk within 15 minutes of its birth. By the time a full hour passes, that same foal will already begin running. Even with such an accelerated childhood, the foals face a 50% mortality rate. Those that survive have a lifetime of running ahead of them, so it's a good thing they receive such a head start.
Zebras are wise to the fact that power exists in numbers. While journeying along the Savannah, they often join forces with other species such as wildebeests. They are one of the most well-traveled animals on Earth; their annual 1,800-miles trek is the longest of any land mammal in Africa.