Zebra facts and Zebra handling


Something that not everyone may know, is that the plains zebra remains the most widespread and abundant equid on Earth. Though extirpated from many parts of its range. The zebra and Przewalski's Horse the Mongolian Thaki, is the only remaining true not domesticated wild horses. Other "wild horses" in the world are actually just escaped domestic horses that run wild. Or wild breeds mixed with domestic horses by humans.

Short about the plains zebra and its natural life in freedom. The plains Zebra lives like the horse in a harem group where the stallion is the protector of the herd. The herd is led by an older mare. 3-6 Mares and some young zebras together with the stallion forms a normal zebra herd. Also the zebra form bachelor groups of outcasts stallions not established in a harem group. So, just like the horse.

When one sees enormous groups of zebras together, it is still these established harem groups that make up the own herd. The stallion keeps track of his herd in these large groups and each group from the harem recognize each other among all the other groups. This big groups forms when water availability is limited, and their migrations between water and pasture can reach 40mi (65km) per day.


But the zebra is not just a striped horse, it is a wild animal with a wild animal characteristics. It is said that a zebra can not be tamed at all, it CAN be tamed. But it is not by using the normal methods used to tame a horse. If you tries to dominate a zebra or subject it to pressure, wich is common in traditional Natural Horsemanship training, the answer will come quickly through bites and kicks. If the zebra sees you as a threat, well then it will defend itself seriously. With dominance and force, you can just as with the horse, get the zebra to do as you please, and even tricks ! But it will be very dangerous to handle, because it does not trust you as a leader, and is afraid all the time. That is the reason why many fail and the rumor that zebras can not be tamed, and why they are called dangerous and vicious.

Fortunately there are other ways ...

The Zebra can be likened to a horse, but with 10 times more sensitive senses and escape behavior. If you understand the difference and apply a completely different learningtechnique than the traditionals for horses, then you get a faithful friend for life. First you have to get to know the zebra completely without any touch. Just by being in the vicinity, then you can with the right mentality get the zebra to feel safe with you. You have to listen and understand everything it wants to convey. When you get that confidence and never before, you can touch the zebra without danger. It involves precise timing and a complete feel for what mood the zebra mediates. The slightest misinterpretation or incorrect signal from you and you will fail. And remember that you can newer lie to an animal, your innermost thoughts and intents are fully visible to them. And this is even more true for wildlife. They listen carefully to each channel in their minds, and have a much higher threshold to even want to understand you.

You must be the one to learn the language first and interpret it correctly, then the zebra learns who you are, and that you are not a threat but a security for it. How long it takes depends on the individual and the Zebras past experiences. You must become the leader and it MUST always see you as a confident leader, without a doubt. If a zebra would try to challenge you as a leader, then you have serious problems.




Using treats as a bribe is not something I recommend, it may function to get the attention at first, but as a lasting method it calls only for problem. A horse (or zebra) as a herd leader hardly gives his lower ranked something to eat that way. It does not happen at all among herbivores. The leader has mental qualities that the lower ranked sees as an advantage and security. Of course you should give your animals treats, but not as a bribe.


A zebra does not smell like a horse at all, it has its very own fragrance. Another interesting difference is the zebras sound and body language that also differs from the horse. A zebra does not Neigh like a horse, it has instead a very loud "barking" sound, The Plains zebra sounds like, kwa-ha kwa-ha kwa-ha-ha-ha . It's a sound that the zebra uses to call together the herd or express concern or danger.

Plains zebra sound :

When the Zebra is pleased and satisfied with the situation, it snorts exactly like the horse. Another interesting difference is how a zebra stallion shows inferiority or inaction against another individual by pulling the rear corners of the mouth and show hes teeth. It is reminiscent of the young horses foal chewing and have the same meaning. This is nothing an adult horse stallion does. And vice versa , to show superiority against another stallion by quickly throwing the head and neck against the rivals back. Zebra stallions often go down on their knees when two rival fights, to protect their legs and knees. With a injured leg, you can´t run from predators and life is soon ended in the wild. Otherwise, the zebra's body language is very similar to the horse. The horse and zebra quickly learn to understand each other without problems, and see each other as herd members.

Can anyone have a zebra ?

-I would not think so, a zebra is a wild animal and requires a great understanding in all handling. If you are good at reading and understanding animals and is easy going with animals in general, why not a zebra? but, if you have ANY slightest problems with deep understanding of horses, then a zebra is really nothing to consider. Zebras can be very hard to handle if you behave "wrong" in the zebras point of view.

Can you keep a zebra, is a permission needed in Sweden ?

-You can keep a zebra as a private person in Sweden without a permit, if you have no business (private). One must follow the same rules that apply to zoos regarding space requirements both indoors and outdoors. But those rules specify only minimum dimensions, zebras both need and want more space. You can not have any zebra species that are IUCN red-listed in the threatened categories VU (Vulnerable), EN (Endangered) or CR (Criticaly Endangered). Which in practice means that it is plains zebras you can keep. Grants and Chapman is the most common.

IUCN has raised the level on plains zebras 2016-06-20 from LC (Least Concern) to NT (Near Threatened) due to presumed 25% population decline since 1992.

ref : IUCN redlist equus quagga

And how to keep the zebras is also very important, small enclosures with stressed untamed animals is completely wrong. The zebras need to "integrate" and like their situation as domestic animals, if that is not the case, then they should not be kept in captivity at all. Normally, zebras in captivity are kept in enclosures behind high fences. Tame zebras do not even need an enclosure, normal horse fencing is good enough.

What does the zebras eat ?

-Same as our horses, only natural grazing, hay and straw in winter season, mineral stone, salt, all in free access. Zebras also needs vitamin E and selenium supplementation during the winter months. Natural selenium content is low in Sweden. The feed stored drops of vitamin E content significantly. Vitamin E/selenium deficiency is considered to lead to WMD ( White Muscle Disease ) of zebras.


Why this interest in zebras?

I have always liked and cared about animals ever since I was a kid, To take care of and help animals that others consider difficult or impossible has always been a driving force and motivation.

Exotic animals is nothing you usually have the opportunity to handle if you are not working in a zoo where I live.

One of my major role models in worthy treatment of zoo animals is Sigvard Berggren, who founded Borås Zoo in the early 60's. It all began when he brought a lion home from Africa in 1958, because the mother had been killed, and he feared that the cub would face the same fate. At that time there were no rules that we have today, and he simply took the lion in his car. Yes, he drove a car from Juba in southern Sudan to his home in Sweden at Tosseryd near Borås.

The neighbors were not so excited about his animal collection that had grown to several lions and also other animals after a while. Most likely due to, all visitors and all the cars that gathered in the small community that were disturbing them, not the animals. So the municipality suggested that the animals could be the foundation of a new zoo in Borås. Sigvard wanted different species to go together, just as he had seen them do in Africa. Animal parks at that time did not look like that, it was more like big menageries, where nobody thought much about the environment or needs of the animals. It became the first park in Europe with an African savanna with several species of animals and height differences between animals and visitors as barriers.

After a few years, Sigvard announced to quit his acquaintance with the zoo. He did not think that the animal's interest came in the first place and that the animals were not treated with dignity. The savannah was not expanded and built as he wanted, with free loosehousing the year round. It was in any case the economy and the visitors interest that had to decide.

But fortunately, the trend has reversed again and most zoos do incredibly much for the animals and their environment today.

Back to our zebras, they have come here because they could not stay with their previous owners for various reasons. Here they are given the opportunity of a life in freedom and to move freely over large areas all year round.