Can you own a pet zebra? Yes, at least in most states you won’t have any legal issues. But probably zebras aren’t a good choice and you would be better off with another species. In this article, I’m guiding you through what it’s like to have a zebra as a pet.
Zebras are like horses but much cooler, right? The fact that we talk about an exotic animal that only a few people own seems to be magnetic for many. But only because they are legal doesn’t mean that zebras make good pets.
Is Keeping A Pet Zebra Legal?
Yes, in most states you can legally own a pet zebra. Sometimes you don’t even have to do any paperwork.
That said, some states regulate ownership more than others. One of these states is California. If you live there and want to buy a zebra, you need at least two years of experience with exotic pets. Additionally, one year of the species you want to own is required.
I talk of species here, because this is for all odd-toed-ungulates like zebras, rhinoceroses and tapirs. Of course, horses are an exception.
Nevada is a state where zebras aren’t regulated at all. Nothing keeps you away from getting one straight away.
Not Domesticated Like Horses
Unlike horses, zebras aren’t domesticated at all. Breeders need many generations of selective breeding to domesticate wild animals. And there is a significant difference in taming and domestication.
Have that in mind when you think you can ride your new zebra right away. Experienced owners can break a horse within a few months, but with zebras they often need one year or even more. Read this story on npr.org if you want to learn more about owners and their experiences with pet zebras.
Zebras are strong animals that learned to defend themselves quite well. They lack camouflage and therefore will try to fight even big predators. A kick from a zebra can easily kill hyenas and lions if they hit the right zones of the body.
Of course, zebras aren’t considered to be dangerous animals but instincts still kick in when they feel threatened.
You Need To Keep Them At Least In Pairs
Zebras are very social animals and you would have to keep them at least in pairs. In nature, herds can congregate up to 1000 individuals. Inside the herds, they live in family groups of 5 to 20 members.
One stallion is the center of such a family group. The other members are mares and their offspring. The bonds between every individual in the family are strong and they recognize each other through the shape of their stripes. Like our fingerprints, no zebra has the same pattern of stripes.
The consequences for pet zebra owners are, that they have to keep at least two of this kind. One zebra will soon feel lonely and get depressed. That makes the pet prone to different health issues and unnormal behaviors.
Often zebras are kept together with donkeys and horses what works well. Bonds between these animals can be strong. And even if they are not the same species, they are so closely related, that they can produce offspring.
Depending on which part of the parents is the male and which the female the offspring is called zorse, hebra, zonkey or zedonk.
Zebras Are Escape Artists
Some animals will stay within their known environment, even when you open the gate or pull down the fence. This is not for zebras.
Zebras roam within large areas and they love to explore their surroundings. For aspiring pet zebras owners, that means, that they have to make everything 100% escape-proof. If you can’t imagine what it’s like if a zebra gets through your fence you can read this article at theguardian.com. It can be very hard to catch them again.
That being said, zebras need a lot of room to roam with a lot of grass to eat. The diet of zebras is not complicated as they are happy with a typical meal for a horse. But they eat and drink a lot, so you better ensure that they don’t have to search for it elsewhere.
In one sentence this means that you would need a high and strong fence to make a breakthrough impossible.
You Might Need To Take Them Indoors
Zebras live in the east and south of Africa. They are accustomed to the mild climate and warm temperatures in this area.
Depending on in which state you live, you might have to take your pet zebra indoors to protect it from harsh weather conditions. That means you won’t get along without a shed that also has to be heated if it gets very cold where you live.
Minus degrees can easily kill a zebra if they aren’t provided with a warm shelter.
Pet Zebras Cost A Lot Of Money
You need a lot of money if you want to keep a pet zebra. It isn’t hard to find one for sale and you will typically pay something between 4000 and 7000 $. But keep in mind, you will have to buy at least two so that they can live a happy companionship.
Don’t underestimate the costs for the shelter and habitat. Most people that don’t have enough space in their garden need to rent a place at a ranch.
For food and veterinary care, you can expect to pay the same as you would for a horse. While the food might be a little higher, the vet bills are often a bit cheaper. Zebras in general get sick less often if properly cared for.
Do Zebras Make Good Pets?
At first sight, the difference between zebras and horses is not that big. But when you think twice it becomes obvious that horses can be good pets while zebras are mainly wild animals.
The most important factor is, that it’s difficult to break a zebra. Most people expect a pet that they can ride and especially young children lose interest fast when they learn that things are different with zebras.