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Zebras Are Just Striped Horses

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"Why didn't the first humans ride out of Africa on the backs of zebras to conquer the world? Because zebras are bastards."
Why Zebra are Terrible Horses by CGP Grey, explaining why this trope doesn't work in real life.

In real life, zebras are considered wild equines, but are not the same as horses found in other parts of the world. In fact, the Zebra is more closely related to the African Wild Ass (the ancestor of the Donkey) than to Horses. You won't see a zebra at a stable or participating in a horse race. Zebras can be tamed, but they're not domesticated like horses or even donkeys. Zebra and domestic equines can be bred to produce hybrids called a zeedonk (zebra+donkey) or a zorse (zebra+horse), but the offspring tend to be infertile.

On the other hand, certain media depicts zebras as being more closely related to their domesticated counterparts than they actually are.

When this trope is in play, a zebra will be seen alongside horses and even acting like them. People may be riding on them too, or they may appear as the "horse" half of a centaur.


A common variant is that zebras make horse-like neighing and whinnying sounds, more like a high-pitched bray, instead of their own unique vocalization. Another variant is to portray zebras with horse-like tails, while real zebra tails are longer and have shorter hairs, akin to that of a donkey.

Compare Horse of a Different Color, for when animals other than horses are used as steeds and pack animals. Related to All Animals Are Domesticated and could be considered an equine version of All Animals Are Dogs, White-Tailed Reindeer, and Penguins Are Ducks.



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    Anime & Manga 

    Comic Books 
  • Asterix: In Asterix and the Chariot Race, Princesses Nefersaynefer and Kweenlatifer from the kingdom of Kush use zebras instead of horses to pull their chariot.
  • While on the planet Pervious in Saga, Alana rides a white, zebra-like animal with orange stripes at the front that fade to grey at the back.
  • Rulah, Jungle Goddess would often use a zebra as her personal mount.
  • In The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck Scrooge, at the time stranded in the African wilderness, considers riding a zebra as if it was a horse, even calling it a striped horse, but opts for a lion instead. Justified in that he hadn't been in South Africa for long - and he had been using a horse-driven cart before it was stolen.

    Films — Animation 
  • Fantasia: The "Pastoral Symphony" sequence features a pair of African centaurs whose equine half is that of a zebra.
  • Dumbo: The zebras pull a carriage during the circus parade.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Greatest Showman: Barnum and his family are shown riding in a coach driven by a pair of zebras when he takes them to their new mansion. Justified, because the zebras come from his circus.
  • Discussed and subverted in The Legend of Tarzan. Tarzan tells George Washington Williams that a horse will just throw you off its back, a zebra will go on kicking you until it kills you.
  • Racing Stripes: A zebra by the name of Stripes is trained to take part in a horse race. In real life, this trope was very much not the case in filming, as lead actress Hayden Panettiere was thrown off the zebra used in filming.
  • Sheena: The titular heroine rides on a zebra, which was a white horse painted with black stripes.

    Live-Action TV 

  • A Song of Ice and Fire gives us the zorse, a black-and-white striped species of equine from Essos. It's not clear if they're supposed to be real-world zebras, a fictional species similar to a zebra, or a cross between a zebra and a horse. Whatever they are, they can be ridden in battle.
  • Played with in Julius Zebra. The first book shows a comparison between horses and zebras, and Julius is called a stripy horse in some parts. The third book has Julius and Brutus race against horses in a chariot race.
  • Some tales of the Cthulhu Mythos set in the Dreamlands mention the use of zebras as mounts for cross-country travel. Possibly a self-enforced example: because so many waking humans accept this trope's premise, the zebras of Dreamland may behave more like horses than actual wild zebras, the better to accord with dreamers' expectations.

    Tabletop Games 
  • One of the kingdoms in Spears of the Dawn, a game set in a fantasy version of Ancient Africa, is mentioned as fielding units of zebra-riding cavalry. This despite the fact that horses are perfectly common in the setting.
  • Aesheba: Greek Africa, a system-neutral RPG product released under Gary Gygax's short-lived "Fantasy Masters" label, depicted both natives and classical Greek immigrants using zebras to draw their chariots. The product did, at least, concede that zebras do not accept riders.

    Video Games 
  • In Heroes of Might and Magic IV, heroes from the nature-themed Preserve faction use zebras as steeds.
  • Played With in the Wildlife Safari behavior pack in Minecraft: The zebras don't neigh like horses, they bray like donkeys.
  • Played With, Lampshaded, and Subverted in Red Dead Redemption II. One side mission involves finding a zebra belonging to a traveling circus show headed by a moustahioed British man named Margaret. The zebra sounds like a mule, and worse, turns out to be one painted as a zebra.
  • Viva Piñata: When a Horstachio (Horse) consumes blackberries and daisies, it will turn into a Zumbug (Zebra). This is the only way to get the zebra pinata.
  • World of Warcraft has the Zhevra, a unicorn-like zebra, which runs wild in the in-game equivalent of the African savanna, but can also be seen anywhere else as a mount, once available to any player.
  • The first Zoo Tycoon inverts this trope. For some reason the developers made unicorns "bark" like zebras instead of neighing.
  • Heroes of the Storm has a Zebra mount, which is organized under horses in the collection. Its flavour text even lampshades this:
    While zebras are in the equid family, they're technically not horses. I'm just sayin'.
  • Animal Crossing has a zebra villager named Savannah who's just a retextured horse.
  • Pokémon Black and White: Subverted with Blitzle and Zebstrika. They're the token "horse" Pokémon of the Unova region but they can't learn High Horsepower, since they aren't actually horses. All Animals Are Domesticated, however, is still in play, and they can be still tamed just as easily as any other Pokémon.

    Western Animation 
  • The Lion Guard makes the mistake of using horse noises for zebras.
  • Looney Tunes: Parodied. In one cartoon, Daffy Duck lets a baby zebra out of the bag into Porky Pig's house. Said zebra foal sounds like a horse for comedic effect.
  • Mickey Mouse (2013): A one point in the episode "Safari, So Good", the zebras sound like donkeys.
  • Peppa Pig makes the mistake of using horse noises for zebras; Zoe the zebra will let out a "Neigh!" instead of a "Bark!"
  • Averted in Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, Zack says "Zebras don't tame easy" and instead the two ride ostriches to chase after the title character.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Subverted. The ponies initially think that Zecora, a zebra, is just a weird-colored pony; Twilight is the only one who knows what a zebra is. Zecora also acts very differently from the ponies (which leads them to mistakenly believe that she is a witch). While her affinity for potions and rhyming are cultural, the part where she paws at the ground is a real difference between ponies and zebras. Horses paw at the ground as a threat display, while zebras just do it to look for water.
  • The Hair Bear Bunch uses shoe polish to disguise Stripes the Zebra as a horse and enter him in a horse race in the episode "Ark Lark."

    Real Life 
  • Humans have tried to domesticate zebras for centuries. While there have been many zebras that were successfully tamed over the years, true domestication has never been achieved — by and large, zebras are too nervous, aggressive and difficult to train out of biting anyone that comes close to be easily domesticated. There was a very promising candidate in the Quagga, a very distinctive type of zebra with a brown back and incomplete striping, but sadly it was driven extinct. If that didn't happen, we might very well have domesticated zebras by now.
  • The Victorian nobleman and zoologist Walter Rothschild, who clearly had time on his hands, attempted to domesticate zebra foals, creating a team of six that he used to draw his coach. He never tried to ride them, though — zebras are too small to easily bear riders for more than a little while.