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Are Horses and Zebras Related? What You Need To Know!

Hallie Roddy

Zebras and horses look far too similar to not be related, right? While horses and zebras are related, it’s hard to tell just how close they are to each other on the family tree. Both animals belong to the Equidae family, which also includes donkeys. There was also once a half zebra and half horse species called a Quagga that is now extinct. Even though the two are related, there are quite a few similarities and differences we think you should know about.


Why are Horses and Zebras Considered Different Species?

Zebras are a species of wild horses, and all of them are currently living in Africa. That is, of course, other than the ones that you see at the zoo. In other words, zebras are horses, but they are still an entirely different species than those we ride around on. All zebras today have stripes all over their bodies. However, there used to be some special breeds that didn’t have stripes and looked more like a horse.

zebra and horses
Image Credit: WOLF AVNI, Shutterstock

Can Zebras Be Trained to Get Ridden Like a Horse?

There is a good reason you don’t ever see someone riding a zebra. Even though they look similar to one another, zebras and horses have two completely different temperaments. You cannot train a zebra to be ridden the way that we ride horses. Zebras are much more aggressive and do not like to be controlled. These are not tame animals and will never be safe to ride.

Zebras and horses don’t have the same kind of herd mentality. Herds of horses will always have an alpha male who is the leader of his flock. On the other hand, zebras are more individualistic despite moving around in groups. The only reason they stay in groups is that there are benefits to their survival this way. What does this herd mentality have to do with training them? Horses respect a leader, which means that you can become the alpha to them. They can learn to listen and obey our commands. Zebras don’t have this same type of mindset and won’t do anything they don’t’ want to do.

zebra up close
Image Credit: Pixabay

Why Don’t We Ride Zebras?

Aside from their temperament, zebras have a different build than horses. Horses have longer legs than zebras. The area where you would typically mount a saddle is also different. Zebras don’t have a wither, which is the area where the neck of the horse begins. It would be much harder to stay on a zebra than it is on a horse.

horse shoe divider

Differences Between Horses and Zebras

1. Horses are faster.

You would think that wild zebras would be able to outrun a domesticated horse, but that’s not true. Horses have longer and stronger legs that allow them to reach speeds of up to 54 miles per hour. Zebras can only run 40 miles per hour.

2. Zebras are smaller.

Zebras are only about five feet tall from their shoulders to their hooves. Horses can grow much taller, with some being seven feet tall. Zebras tend to weigh 880 pounds on average. Horses could easily weigh over 1,800 pounds.

zebras in the meadow
Image Credit: Pixabay

3. Their manes are different.

The hair on the back of a horse’s neck is long enough to be brushed and braided. A zebra’s main is a lot shorter and stiffer and looks more similar to a donkey.

4. They make different sounds.

Almost all of us have heard a horse neigh at some point in our lives. Zebras produce a sound that is more like a bark than anything else. They can also snort on occasion.

5. Zebras have a temper.

While there are aggressive horses out there, you are much more likely to find an ill-tempered zebra. Zebras are aggressive animals, and they can go off at any time, especially when they feel threatened. They are extremely stubborn and aggressive animals.



Zebras and horses may be related to each other, but there are still quite a few differences that explain why they’re considered two different species. This applies to many animals in our world and teaches us that just because two things look alike, it doesn’t mean they are the same at all.

Featured Image Credit: Sarel, Shutterstock

Hallie Roddy

Hallie has been a proud nature and animal enthusiast for as long as she can remember. She attributes her passion for the environment and all its creatures to her childhood when she was showing horses on weekends and spending her weeknights devoting her attention to her pets. She enjoys spending most of her time in Michigan playing with her two rescue cats, Chewbacca and Lena, and her dog, Clayton. When Hallie isn’t using her degree in English with a writing specialization to spread informative knowledge on pet care, you can find her snuggled up on the couch reading books or watching nature documentaries.