The Quaggas is an extinct subspecies of plains zebra that were driven to extinction in 1883, when hunting by Dutch settlers and the people of South Africa quickly drove this subspecies to the brink. A few individuals persisted in zoos, but all passed away without successful reproduction.
This unique subspecies of zebra had distinctly reduced stripe patterns on their bodies. Some locals in Africa still refer to plains zebra as a whole as “quagga.” Read on to learn about the assigned animal.
Description of the Quagga
In shape and size, these zebras were quite similar to other plains zebras. They stood a little over four feet tall at the shoulder, and weighed around 600 lbs. or so. However, their coat pattern stood out amongst the zebras. Best put, they looked like a zebra on the front, and a horse on the back! Their heads and necks had typical zebra stripes, which faded into solid brown on their rear ends. The underbelly and all four legs were cream or white colored.
Interesting Facts About the Quagga
Unfortunately for the quagga, overhunting and limited distribution resulted in a swift extermination. However, there is still hope for the reintroduction of another quagga-like zebra.
- Burchell’s Zebra – While the skeletons of quaggas and some other plains zebras differed significantly, scientists have found that the Burchell’s zebra population has similar features to the quagga. In fact, their skeletal structures were entirely indistinguishable from one another, suggesting that they were extremely closely related.
- Burchell’s and Quaggas – In appearance, some Burchell’s zebras are midway between “zebra” and quagga as well. A small portion of the population has reduced stripes, giving them the appearance of being a “missing link” between the two creatures. The population in Namibia in southern Africa is the most closely related to the quagga.
- The Quagga Project – These findings have led a team of scientists in South Africa to the attempted “recreation” of the extinct quagga. The Quagga Project is selectively breeding the closely related Burchell’s zebra to reduce the amount of stripes, making them physically similar to the extinct quagga. While they aren’t cloning quagga DNA, they are achieving an animal quite similar to the extinct subspecies.
Habitat of the Quagga
These zebras only roamed a small range in South Africa, and utilized only a few select habitats. While there are other types of habitats in the area, they preferred grazing on grasses, and thrived in only a few habitats. Their primary ecosystems were grasslands and scrublands. As they were only located in a small region, they were restricted to arid habitats.
Distribution of the Quagga
Quaggas existed only in a small portion of Africa. They lived in just a few provinces within South Africa in the Karoo region. While they lived, these animals roamed the Free State, Northern Cape, Western Cape, and Eastern Cape. Scientists believe that they did not extend their range northward, or interbreed with other subspecies.
Diet of the Quagga
Like their close relatives, quaggas were grazers rather than browsers. This means that they fed on grasses, rather than eating leaves, shrubs, and fruits like browsers do. Their feeding behavior was likely quite similar to other zebras. Eating as a group gives the animals plenty of eyes and ears to watch and listen for predators.
Quagga and Human Interaction
Humans hunted quaggas extensively for their meat and hides while they still lived. We hunted them all the way to extinction, and the last known quagga died in 1883. All of the last known quaggas lived successfully in a zoological setting, and even lived relatively long lives. Unfortunately, they were never successfully bred in those zoos, and the quagga went extinct when the last one died.
Humans never domesticated quaggas in any way. We didn’t breed them in captivity, but they worked at tasks similar to those of horses and donkeys. Scientists believe they could have been good candidates for domestication. Numerous reports of the quaggas in zoos suggest that they had calmer dispositions than their other zebra relatives.
Does the Quagga Make a Good Pet
Even if they were alive, quaggas would likely make poor pets. Though they were reportedly calmer than other zebras, they were still wild animals. Even fully domesticated horses can be dangerous, and only those who know exactly what they’re getting into should have kept these animals.
should only be kept by those who know exactly what they’re getting into with their care and needs.
In zoos, quaggas would probably need care similar to other zebras. They were social animals, and keeping them in herds would have been important. The enclosures would have been large enough to provide plenty of grazing opportunities, and a safari-style multi-species enclosure would have been ideal. Their diet would also have been similar to that of other zebras, with supplemental feed and hay in addition to grazing.
Behavior of the Quagga
While we know they lived in herds, we don’t know much else about the behavior of wild quaggas. Early reports can be confusing, as the locals referred to all zebras as “quaggas.” Scientists believe that they gathered in herds of 30 – 50 individuals. As far as their social behavior, we simply don’t know. They could have had similar social structures to those of their closely related subspecies of zebras.
Reproduction of the Quagga
We can assume that quaggas had similar reproduction to their closely related zebra subspecies. There are no confirmed reports of wild quaggas breeding behavior. It is likely that their gestation period was around one year, and they probably produced a single foal. Other subspecies fully wean their foals by one year of age.