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Differences Between a Horse and Zebra: Can You Ride a Zebra?

Differences Between a Horse and Zebra: Can You Ride a Zebra?

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Many people think that zebras are just wild horses with stripes. However, many people don’t realize the differences between a horse and a zebra. Is a zebra a horse?

Zebras and horses belong to the Equidae family, but they are different species. Zebras are smaller, slower, weigh less, and are harder to tame compared to horses.

Zebras are more closely related to donkeys than horses. They have mohawk manes, short tails, flatbacks, and long ears, making them more like donkeys than horses.

Visually, the main difference between a horse and zebras is their appearance. Zebras have a black and white striped coat whereas horses tend to have a one-color coat.

Zebras are native to the plains of Africa. Just like horses, zebras are herd animals and spend most of their day grazing. They are social animals, often living in family groups.

A Zebra’s unique black and white striped coat pattern are thought to be a natural defense against predators. When a bunch of zebras are together, their striped coat pattern makes it difficult for predators to pick out an individual zebra.

Horse vs Zebra Size Comparison

Zebras are smaller and stockier than horses. Zebras range from 10 to 14 hands in height whereas horses 16 to 16 hands high. Additionally, Zebras typically weigh around 550 to 990 pounds, whereas horses generally weigh 900-1,100 pounds.

Grevy’s zebras are typically the largest zebras, followed by the mountain zebra, with the plains zebra being the smallest.

Horse and zebra size comparison

Can You Ride a Zebra like a Horse?

Zebras can be ridden, but they are very difficult to ride compared to horses. Due to their flat backs, unpredictable nature, and lower strength, zebras are not an ideal animal for riding and only a handful of people have ridden them.

Additionally, zebras are small and can only carry a small rider. They do not have even temperaments like horses do, making them unpredictable. Even the most experienced horseman will advise against riding zebras. However, as you’ll see below, people have ridden zebras.

Famed American Explorer Osa Johnson Rode a Zebra

Throughout history, there have been instances of people riding zebras. Famed American explorer, filmmaker, and author Osa Johnson rode zebras on multiple occasions while traveling through Africa with her husband during the early 1900s.

Horse trainer and veterinarian Horace Hayes travelled extensively for his work with wife Alice.

During their time in Africa in the late 1800s, Horace trained a zebra for his wife to ride. Alice claimed the zebra was too headstrong and would not make a good mount for a lady rider.

Woman riding a zebra on safari
Mrs. Martin Johnson riding a domesticated zebra named Bromar.

Perhaps one of the most famous examples of a zebra being ridden is in the movie Racing Stripes.

A zebra named Sammy, who had already starred in other films, was used for all the riding scenes. Sammy was said to be very easygoing for a zebra, with a personality more like a horse.

Are Zebras Faster Than Horses?

Horses are faster than zebras. Horses can run up to 54 miles per hour, whereas zebra’s top speed is only 38 miles per hour. Although zebras are slower, they very agile and change direction quickly while running which enables them to evade predators.

Zebras have even been ridden and raced in recent years. In 2016 at Paradise Turf race track in Pheonix, Arizona, a handful of zebras were raced, as well as camels and ostriches.

Can Zebras be Domesticated?

Zebras can be domesticated and tamed, but they are not as easy to work with as horses are. Zebras tend to be more aggressive and unpredictable than horses, so it is not always practical or humane to tame them.

A zebra is much more likely to bite and kick than a horse, due to their many natural predators in the wild. When zebras are confined, their natural response is flight.

Though you can tame a zebra, lots of time and patience is needed. You need to practice a lot of caution when working with zebras.

What is a Cross Between a Zebra and a Horse Called?

A zorse is the offspring of a zebra stallion and mare horse. The reverse pairing is known as a hebra. A zorse is sterile and can’t reproduce. Zorses compared to zebras are bigger, have a calmer disposition, and vary more in color.

Zorse standing in a field. A cross breed between a zebra and horse

Since zorses are easier to work with and bigger than zebras, they are more often used for riding than zebras. They generally are only born in domestication, but there are a few rare cases of them being born in the wild. Zorses are a unique balance between zebras and horses.