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Why Don’t Humans Ride Zebras?

August 23, 2019


(classical music) (writing on chalkboard) – Hi there, I’m Josh Clark. And this is Brain Stuff. And this is the Brain Stuff where I explain to you why we don’t ride zebras. Is that right? Maybe you’ve seen somebody ride a zebra before, or, there’s videos on You Tube, and there’s a movie called Sheena, Queen of the Jungle, and all of it made you think, why don’t we ride zebras? Why isn’t it just a normal thing? First, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle actually had a painted
horse, not a real zebra. And secondly, while it is possible to get a zebra, once in a
while, to let you ride it, you can’t actually domesticate the zebra species, as a whole. Here’s why. So an animal that’s domesticated is actually a member of a species that has been modified from its brethren in the wild
by human intervention. Through selective breeding and making a species dependent on us for their food supply, we make them pretty much compliant to whatever humans want them to do, whether it’s walk down a chute to their death, or pull a cart, whatever. Domestication means we’ve
taken a wild species and made it utterly and completely tame, as a species. With me so far? Now that you understand domestication, through that lens, it’s
kind of not that surprising that we don’t have more
domesticated species. All domesticated animals,
including the big five that we humans have
really come to depend on: cows, pig, sheep, goats, horses have six main things in
common, as pointed out by Jared Diamond, who’s
the author of a number of cool books, including
Guns, Germs, and Steel. These six things are kind of big. They are that the animal is capable of breeding in captivity. They aren’t picky eaters, which means that the average human can go out and get food for these animals. They have a social
hierarchy, which means that a human can step in as
the leader of the group. They grow very quickly, so you can grow a bunch of them as
quickly as you need them and replace the ones that die. They tend not to panic which is kind of important when you have something in captivity that, you’re saying, Breed, breed! Here’s some food. And probably most important of all, they have a pleasant
disposition, which means they won’t attack you every time you go in to take them their food. You put all these six factors together and you have yourself a species that could conceivably be domesticated. But, if just one of
these factors is missing, that species will likely never be able to be domesticated. And zebras, it turns out, do not match these
criteria in a lot of ways. Probably most of all, zebras are jerks. They’re very hostile. They’re very aggressive. And that really means that you can’t domesticate them easily. But you can’t blame
zebras for their stripes. (drum rimshot) See, zebras evolved on the African plains and they evolved as a
food source for lions. Zebras don’t want to be
a food source for lions, so since they have to fend
off these apex predators on a daily basis, they learned to be very aggressive and to
kick really, really hard. In fact, a zebra can kick a lion to death. So just think about what it could do to a human head! They also have a really nasty habit of biting and not letting go. (munching) You put all that together, if you go to take a zebra its food, while you’re trying to domesticate it, you’re in for a big surprise. All of this about their disposition and tendency to panic, frankly, is not to mention that they’re too small to ride. Zebras backs aren’t evolved to allow a human to ride along, or to carry even a lot of cargo. And you can’t properly saddle them. So really, even if zebras were the nicest animal on the planet, we would just break their backs when we tried to ride them. This is not to say that
there is no such thing as a tame zebra, like we’ve seen. But a tame zebra is just an individual. It’s not a member of a
domesticated species. For example, the 2nd Baron Rothschild used to ride around in a carriage pulled by his train of zebras in Edwardian London. Must’ve been quite a sight to see. Plus there’s another guy named Bill Turner who’s known to ride his
zebra around Dorset. Apparently it has a
stronger than usual back. But for the most part, you can do away with your wild, wild dreams of ever riding a zebra at the park. It’s probably not gonna happen. And now you know why. So what animal do you wish you could ride? I think I would look
awesome riding an ostrich. It’s just my thing. Let us know in the comments below. And while you’re down there, go ahead and subscribe to Brain Stuff. And for even more cool Brain Stuff stuff, go to BrainStuffShow.com.

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