Why Do We Ride Horses But Not Zebras?
Articles Blog

Why Do We Ride Horses But Not Zebras?

August 18, 2019


This episode of SciShow is brought to you
by Skillshare. [♪ INTRO] I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but zebras
look an awful lot like horses. They’re even part of the same equine family,
and you can cross-breed them into an animal called a zorse. But no matter how similar they look, don’t
be fooled: Thanks to their biology and evolution, you just can’t ride a zebra. It’s a beautiful, stripey, majestic trap. According to archeological evidence, humans
have been taming horses for at least 5500 years, but our relationship with zebras goes
back much farther. Humans and zebras have spent millions of years
together because both species evolved alongside each other in Africa — and that’s actually
where the problems with zebra riding start. Because even though we’ve spent millennia
together, it’s not like humans and zebras were best buddies. For quite a while, early humans saw zebras
as food, and not much else. There’s even evidence that we hunted them,
so our striped neighbors kind of grew up knowing that people were bad news. According to some researchers, that means
they could be predisposed to fear us. Horses, meanwhile, didn’t encounter people
until much later, and we likely didn’t hunt them long enough for them to pick up the same
fear. But even though we totally started our relationship
off on the wrong foot, there’s actually an even bigger problem with zebras: Their
evolutionary history has made them just plain nasty. They spend their whole lives surrounded by
large predators like lions, cheetahs, and hyenas, so they have a really well-developed
fight and flight response. That means zebras are flightier than horses,
and a lot more aggressive. Corner a zebra, and it will bite and kick
and in general try to end you — because those are the kind of skills it needs to survive
in the wild. And a zebra’s kick is serious business. An adult zebra can kick hard enough to break
a lion’s jaw, and zebras injure more American zookeepers than any other zoo animal. This aggressiveness is such a big deal that
some researchers have even looked for a genetic component to it, although they haven’t found
anything conclusive yet. Either way, trying to convince a zebra to
let you ride it is just asking to get hurt. And I don’t know about you, but I would
rather walk somewhere than deal with that. Finally, temperament aside, zebras aren’t
built for riding. Even though they’re from the same family,
they’re smaller than domestic horses, and their backs aren’t as strong, so they’re
not able to comfortably carry as much weight. They also have thick necks, so it’s not
so easy to direct them with reins. And because they’re so ill-tempered, they’re
a lot more prone to getting fed up when they’re tired, and that’s likely to end with your
swift introduction to the hard ground. This isn’t just a hypothesis, either. During the Victorian era, when Europeans were
attempting to colonize parts of Africa, taming zebras was a popular idea. Their horses weren’t that useful, because
in sub-Saharan Africa, they were susceptible to a fatal disease commonly called animal
sleeping sickness, which is carried by tsetse flies. Zebras, meanwhile, almost never catch this
disease because they’re only rarely bitten by tsetse flies — possibly because the flies
are put off by all those stripes, or maybe because they have natural fly repellent in
their skin. Whatever the reason, Europeans took note of
this and famously attempted to domesticate the horse’s striped cousin. And while there were a few individual successes,
this was, for the most part, an abysmal failure. Today, people have mostly given up on riding
zebras — partly because we’ve come to our senses, and mostly because we have jeeps
now. Still, it goes to show that no matter what
we mighty humans do, nature can sometimes still get the upper hand. And that’s probably okay. Speaking of things getting the upper hand…
emails. Whether you’re a student who needs to unsubscribe
from all of those listservs or a SciShow host waiting for the next script to come in, e-mail
inboxes can sometimes feel like black holes. Or time sinks. Or mountains of chaos. And that’s why I’m glad Skillshare exists. They have a bunch of productivity-related
classes, including a Skillshare Original class specifically on e-mails, taught by technology
writer Alexandra Samuel. It’s full of tips about filters, folders,
routines, and it even has a worksheet to help you figure out how to apply everything. Conveniently, Skillshare is offering SciShow
viewers two months of unlimited access to all 20,000 Skillshare classes for free! So whether you want to be a better e-mail
manager or learn a new skill like videography or writing, there’s plenty to check out. You can learn more at the link in the description. [♪ OUTRO]

Only registered users can comment.

  1. This video is so wrong it will actually uneducate you.
    1. Zebra's originated in North America, not Africa, just like horses. You can also find fossils across Eurasia. The Hagerman Horse of North America was very similar morphologically to the Grevy's Zebra.
    2. Until recently the ancestor of the domestic horse also lived alongside the European Cave Lion and Eurasian Hyena as well as the American Lion, Sabertooth cats, American Cheetah, Dire Wolves as well as the giant and speedy short-faced bears. Just like Zebra's. Zebra's aggression has nothing to do with this, being an unneutered stallion does or a mare with a foal does. As far as it relates to domestication the giant Aurochs was one of the most aggressive animals ever, but now it's a manageably sized cow.
    3. Zebra's are not too "small" to be domesticated (see: Donkeys). Nor are they particularly small compared to the Tarpan. But none of that matters because the Grevy's Zebra is the biggest species of all the wild equines, including the horse ancestors.

    Seriously SciShow, this was terrible.

  2. This is nonsense! In South Africa it is well known that if you hand rear a Zebra you can tame it and ride it. People only say you can't ride Zebras because racist people say that if Black people were as smart as other people they would have tamed zebras. People also say you can't tame and ride African elephants, and that also isn't true. Strangely you can also tame and ride ostriches.

  3. I'm from Australia, and I just watched a video about zebras. Made by an american
    Him: Zee-bra zee-bra zee-bra
    Me: JUST SAY ZE-BRA
    Him: ZEEEEEEBRA

  4. All modern domestic horses are the product of thousands of years of selective breeding by humanity. Ancient horses were smaller and no good for riding either, that's why the ancient world used chariots.

  5. It took about 30 seconds to find a video of a zebra being trained and ridden, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ph8Vag9VxRU

  6. Any time I’ve seen an open wildlife preserve or park the had to keep the zebras from anything else cause they would attack them. Their kind of jerks

  7. I love this guy!! Aside from being pretty gorgeous, he’s also super smooth…story teller.. wait ugh I’ve said too much looool

  8. Why call them Zorses? Because Horbras sounds inappropriate.
    As a side thought, could you imagine Zebras at the Derby instead of horses? That would be an announcer's nightmare!

  9. Because they aren't domesticated and even if they were they are so god dam wide in the girth that I'd have to do the dam splits to ride one… BOOOOOOM problem solved, no need to watch lmao

  10. Did you know that scientist recently discovered the possible purpose of the stripes? it’s because to keep some certain type of mosquitos away

  11. A Jeep is less flighty & less bitey than a Zebra? You've never had a Jeep break down on you for no reason at all in the middle of nowhere….

  12. I'm kind of surprised that you didn't bring up the social hierarchy of horses vs zebras, as that is arguably the biggest reason horses are generally more tameable than zebras. Or their whole ducking reflex.

  13. My Aunt had a Zebra, I guess because they had more money than since. Any who it bit my cousin and that was the end of that.

  14. The size is not a problem esclusive to Zebras. Horses are breeded to get stronger and bigger, take a time of artifical selection until we could ride then

  15. The zebra is the symbol for rare genetic conditions such as Ehlers Danlos syndrome. Many people with the condition have a tattoo of a zebra with the quote 'My joints are more sociable as they go out more than the rest of me'.

  16. Bastard covered bastards with bastard filling, kinda like most people…. who also evolved on those African killing fields.

  17. I've lived around farm animals all my life. A couple of days ago a sheep knocked me on my butt. ALL animals are ornery. Also we used to cross breed horses and milk cows all the time so we could ride em to the milk shed.

  18. Recently there are those Egyptian zebras that very much resemble donkeys. https://www.theweek.co.uk/95344/egyptian-zoo-paints-donkey-to-look-like-zebra

  19. it's probably because zebras are alot more violent and irrational then horses

    kinda like pitbulls

  20. I hope this host is doing okay. He seems less energetic and kind of almost sad? I hope everything is okay^^

  21. People DO RIDE ZEBRAS. Just not very often. This video is rather misleading. They aren't domesticated, so yes, they do get more flighty and aggressive than domesticated horses, but people who are experienced with zebras recommend training donkeys and mules before you ever try to train and ride a zebra, on account of certain temperamental similarities that they have. and when you say they're "smaller than domestic horses". . . domestic horses literally range from the size of large dogs to absolutely massive draft horses. Zebras are around 12-13 hands (a unit of 4 inches measured from the ground to the shoulder/withers), which is equivalent to a number of pony breeds. And while zebras obviously "aren't built for" or bred for riding, conformation and smoothness of gate varies broadly across horse breeds. Some breeds have choppy, less comfortable strides, while others are smooth as silk. Wild equids tend to have more upright shoulders which can make fitting a saddle harder, but by no means impossible. People can and do ride zebras.

    Fun fact: Zorses have been bred and utilized in order to combine zebras' resistance to trypanosomiasis (spread by the tsetse fly) and the horses' more forgiving temperament.

  22. None of your reasons are really valid, because they all would've applied to horses before they were domesticated.
    So all you're really saying is, "We don't ride zebras because they're not domesticated."
    Which, ya know, Duh!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *