Quagga? Qu’est-ce que c’est?

18 02 2007


The quagga is a now-extinct subspecies of the plains (Burchell’s) zebra. According to Wiki, it “was once found in great numbers in South Africa‘s Cape Province and the southern part of the Orange Free State. It was distinguished from other zebras by having the usual vivid marks on the front part of the body only. In the mid-section, the stripes faded and the dark, inter-stripe spaces became wider, and the hindquarters were a plain brown. The name comes from a Khoikhoi word for zebra and is onomatopoeic, being said to resemble the quagga’s call.”

The extinction of the quagga

“The extermination of the Quagga” by Franz Roubal 1931. Oil on Canvas

How were they related to horses, and other zebras? This diagram shows how horses, asses (donkeys) and zebras split off in their evolution (click to enlarge):

Image source: Stephen Budiansky, The Nature of Horses: Exploring Equine Evolution, Intelligence, and Behavior (1997).

If you’d like a more technical answer, have at it: “A rapid loss of stripes: the evolutionary history of the extinct quagga“, Leonard et al., Biology Letters: Biol. Lett. (2005) 1, 291-295 DOI: 10/1098/rsbl.2005.0323.

Extinction may not be forever, though; the Quagga Project aims to recreate the quagga through selective breeding of Plains zebras, and over 120 foals have been bred towards this goal. A colt named Henry, foaled in 2005, is their most quagga-esque foal so far and is the product of three generations of careful breeding.


He’s not quite there yet; there is still some striping on his hocks, a feature not exhibited on skin specimens in museums, so the quest continues. Similar “breeding back” attempts have also been made with tarpans, which I’ll feature in a future post (along with onagers and kulans). Need a reason to keep you coming back, after all… 😉

Cryptomundo has a few entries on quaggas.

Yup, we got stamps.





8 responses

19 02 2007

The Poles were successful in “recreating” the Tarpan from primitive farm horses. I hope that the Quagga breeders are just as successful. It says volumes about mankind that this strange and beautiful creature was simply exterminated, practically within living memory.

22 01 2008
23 01 2008
2 05 2008

these pictures are so cute and the info on these wonderful creatures are helping very much with my research on a Quagga for science class.

5 05 2008
Say it with a quagga « Bridlepath

[…] (”But Defrost, what’s a quagga?”) […]

20 01 2009

Sehr interessant.

3 03 2009
Pet Doctor’s Blog » Blog Archive » Say it with a quagga

[…] (”But Defrost, what’s a quagga?”) […]

22 12 2009
doll face

wow ! i mean that is amazing . i want 1 😀 x

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