Zebras look like horses but are they? When we look at zebras, most people see horses with stripes. Are zebras actually horses though? Let’s find out!
Are Zebras Horses? Zebras belong to the same family as domestic horses but they are a different species from horses. In fact, there are three distinct Zebra species.
Let’s look at some fun facts about zebras and horses!
1. There Are Three Main Types of Zebra
There are three main types of zebra in existence. These are the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra and the Grevy’s Zebra. Each type is it’s own species. In fact, the gestation period can even change depending on the species.
The Plains zebra has the most unique list of unique types or species including Grant’s zebra, Chapman’s Zebra and Crawshay’s Zebra. Both the Plains Zebra and the Mountain Zebra are grouped into the subgenus “Hippotigris” whereas the Grevy’s Zebra is uniquely isolated under the subgenus “Dolichohippus”. (source)
2. Zebras Can Be Bred with Horses to Create Hybrids
Did you know that you can breed a zebra and a horse to produce a hybrid. The resulting animal is called a “Zorse” if it is a cross between a horse and a zebra. The cross between a Zebra and a pony is more commonly referred to as a “Zony”.
Zorse’s and Zony’s are not typically capable of reproducing. Typically they inherit a horse like coloration from the horse parent and zebra-like stripes from the zebra parent. Zorse’s come in all colors including solid colors and paints.
Typically zorse’s are more difficult to train than a regular horse or pony. Their instincts are heightened from the infusion of wild zebra bloodlines. That being said, they can still be trained to ride and drive and can make excellent mounts if the right training is applied.
3. Zebras Can Be Bred with Donkeys to Create Hybrids
Zebra can also be crossed with Donkeys to create a hybrid commonly referred to as a Zonkey. Typically a zonkey inherits the donkey coloration with the stripes from the zebra parent. Zonkeys have long ears, like regular donkeys, but have more characteristics from the zebra mixed in as well.
Much like with the horse / zebra cross, Zonkeys may retain more wild instincts from their Zebra parent and caution must be applied when training them however, with the right training, they can make excellent companions.
4. Zebras and Horses Have Different Numbers of Chromozomes
Did you know that the Zebra has between 32 and 46 chromozomes (depending on the species). The horse has 64 Chromozomes. The resulting horse/zebra cross typically has 54 chromozomes (source).
This means that most horse / zebra crosses are sterile. However, there are rare cases where a female zorse can have offspring. This event is rare, but possible.
5. Horses are Easier to Tame
If you were to try and tame a wild mustang or a wild zebra, chances are you would have an easier time training the mustang. Wild zebra are extremely flighty.
Another concern with training wild Zebra is that they can be extremely dangerous. In the wild, the natural thing for prey animals is to fight or flee. With the zebra, if they are contained in a small space like a corral, the fight option becomes much more exaggerated and they may attack by biting, kicking or stomping.
This can be extremely dangerous or even deadly for the trainer. While the wild mustang horse does have similar instincts, far fewer of them would choose fight over flee. It could happen, but it wouldn’t be as common as with a wild zebra.
6. Zebra Look More Like Donkey’s Than Horses
If you look at a zebra, you will notice their flat back and mohawk looking mane. They even have long hair and short, ratty tails. In fact, Zebra look more like a donkey than they do a horse.
Zebras are related to both horses and donkeys but they share more characteristics with donkeys.
Are Zebras Horses? The answer is no, zebra are not horses. Zebras are members of the Equidae family but they are a different species.
7. All Zebras are White
One of the interesting things about zebra is that they are all white with black stripes. The horse, on the other hand, can be a wide variety of colors.
When zebra are crossed with horses, typically the foal gets a horse like coloration with black zebra stripes.
It is interesting to consider that the entire species is white. Not gray. With horses, most “white” horses actually have a modifying gene that causes them to turn white, with zebras, they are naturally born that way.
While it is possible to create an awesome color chart with wild mustang colors (like this one I made), a zebra chart would be very boring.
8. Can You Ride A Zebra Like A Horse?
We’ve covered some of the finer points about why zebra and horses are different but, can you ride a zebra like a horse? The answer is yes. Zebra’s can be ridden like a horse. However, they must be trained with caution as they can be very dangerous and not all zebra can be ridden.
In fact, I’ve covered this topic in great detail in my article: Why Don’t People Ride Zebras?
9. Can Zebra Be Tamed?
Zebra can absolutely be tamed. Most commonly, this process is started when the Zebra is a new foal. Wild zebra are very difficult to tame but, the process is much easier when the zebra foal is born in captivity.
You should expect that the taming process for a zebra would be much more difficult than that for a wild mustang. Again, this plays back into their fight or flight instinct. A Zebra is much more prone to fight than flee when confined to a small corral.
That being said, a zebra foal who grows up surrounded by humans is less likely to be scared and try to attack out of fear. Dominance may still play a part but their fear level should be greatly reduced when they are born in captivity and handled regularly.
The same is true with wild mustangs. As a mustang trainer, I have often found that mustang foals born in captivity are much easier to train than their wild counterparts. They are more used to humans and human interaction and less fearful when training begins.
10. Zebra and Horses have Similiar Diets
One of the most similar things between a horse and a zebra is their diet. In the wild, they wouldn’t ever share the same range. Mustangs don’t really roam Africa.
In captivity, however, horses and zebra can often live off of the same type of diet. For captive zebra and horses, a good quality diet consists of hay or pasture, vitamins, minerals and salt.
In fact, a horse and zebra can share the same pasture and receive much of the same nutrition. Diet should be customized to each individual but the basic elements are the same for both horses and zebra.
11. Can Zonkey’s be Ridden?
Zebra hybrids can do all the things any horse can do. They can be taught to ride or drive. They can even compete in trail rides, endurance rides and learn to work cattle.
Typically the training is more difficult and has to be approached by a trainer with skill in order to work through the natural instincts, but the zebra hybrid is capable of functioning just like a regular horse, with the right training and temperament.
What is the Top Speed of A Zebra?
The top speed of a Zebra is 40 mph. (source)
Are Zebra Faster Than Horses?
Zebra are not faster than horses. Horses can reach a top speed of 40 mph whereas a quarter horse race horse could reach speeds of 45 – 50 mph for short distances.
For more information on horse speeds, check out our article: Which Animal Can A Horse Outrun.
Why Do Zebra Run Zig Zag?
Running in a zig-zag motion helps prey animals to confuse and evade predators. Zebra herds will often move in a zig-zag pattern to reduce the chances of being taken by a predator like a lion or cheetah.
I hope you enjoyed this look at some facts about zebras, donkeys and horses. Zebra and their hybrids are very interesting to see in person but, for the most part, they should only be purchased from experienced trainers.
Their look is unique but training can be very difficult. If you are willing to put the time and and resources in learning how to handle a zebra hybrid, the result can be a fun and interesting looking companion!
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