Zebra vs Horses: Animal Domestication


Sheep… weren’t always this fluffy. We fluffy-fied them by breeding the fluffiest in each generation. This is domestication: sculpting wild animals for better human use. As we saw in Part 1, for early man, animals were powerful tools …food, clothing, transportation, tractors. Yet, though there were animals everywhere, only a handful were domesticated in the pre-modern world. What made these different? Let’s make a domestication checklist, shall we? First up: Feedable A cow is a machine that turns grass into steaks And a tiger a machine that turns steaks into… tiger. Ten pounds of grass make a pound of steak. And ten pounds of steak make a pound of tiger. … but these have the same number of calories — so you might as well just eat the cow and save yourself a lot of work. So pure carnivores: you’re not going to domesticate, just because of thermodynamics. You’re looking for herbivores that aren’t picky. They should eat something that’s everywhere that you can’t eat. Any omnivores better be happy eating whatever and better be super worth it. We are, however, putting the pig before the pen here because first we need to catch something that’s… Friendly OK, obviously catching a carnivore is a bad idea anyway because their day job is murder. But plenty of omnivores like grizzleys moonlight in murder. No safety in vegetarians either: buffalo are terrifying tanks for all the reasons mentioned before… …hippos hold the murder high-score in Africa, …giraffes look real dorky until you consider their striking range — lions mostly leave them alone. Animals it would be awesome to domesticate are, not coincidentally, super dangerous. War bears would be a hell of an advantage for your tribe, but it’s not going to happen. And if it’s big and not dangerous, it’s a nervous wreck. Try sneaking up on a gazelle? Rhymes with “LOL”. Sure, you and a team of buddies could spend the whole day marathon jogging it down to exhaustion… …but if it doesn’t break it’s own neck as you try to drag it back home, …then it’s going to casually leap out of whatever pen you built for it. Ok, next up: some animals have reproductive -ah- preferences… …that make them incompatible with captivity. Looking at you, Pandas. The time and energy humans have spent to get pandas to get on with it is comical. Hunter-Gatherers need an animal so eager to breed, it gets it wrong sometimes. … not an animal whose mating seasons they have to keep careful track of. So: Friendly, Feedable and — Fecund. It also needs to grow up fast. This gets us to the heart of domestication versus taming. Again: to domesticate a species is to change it to make it better for us. And side note here: we domesticate plants as well. We’ve bred them to be monstrous versions of their wild selves. So when hippies talk about going back to nature, they forget that these plants are just as man made as this pop-tart. Anyway, back to the animals… The pig porkification project succeeded because pig generations are shorter than human generations. A single, clever human can make porky progress in their lifetime. Compare and contrast: Elephants. Two years to make a calf, five years in between calves, nine years until female maturity, fifteen years for males? You’ve got to be kidding, Elephants. There’s no time for this. But humans can still tame elephants. You can catch an elephant, and train it not to freak out around humans. Then, put it to work. But elephant domestication would require accurate records over several human lives… …never mind that keeping one or two tamed elephants around is incredibly costly …which is why war elephants only happened on occasion in already complex societies. Tame elephants are a luxury, hence this rule of thumb: if it’s on farm, it’s domesticated, if it’s in a circus, it’s tame. Finally: families. OK: zebra vs horses. Horses are civilization game-changers — it’s remarkable to think that from thousands BC until the telegraph… …a dude on a horse was the best internet available. Horses were domesticated in Eurasia, but humans started in Africa which has Zebra … …why didn’t the first humans ride out of Africa on the backs of zebra to conquer the world? Because zebra are bastards. They live to kick and bite: dangerous in a pre-penicillin world. …and zebra also have a ducking reflex making them very frustrating to lasso. In addition to being a real pain in the ass animal, Zebra lack a family structure. Horse herds hierarchy — you can see it when they travel in a line: the male, top female, her foals, second female, her foals, and so on. Humans, by capturing and taming the lead male, become head horse. Lots of barnyard animals are barnyard animals because they have family values humans exploit — …they just grow up with the idea that this human is a funny sort of take-charge cow or whatever. No big deal. Chickens will peck, peck, peck until they’ve worked out who’s top chicken. But you know whose really top chicken? We’re top chicken. Dogs and cats: this is what makes them different. Dogs will love you and defend you and hunt with you because you’re part of the pack. Dogs live to be useful to us — which in the modern world means falling over to play dead — but they love it “Bang! …. Good girl. Good girl!” [laughing] … whereas a cat is a tiny tiger that lives in your house. Ok, back to these guys. For zebra, there’s no such thing as society. They hang out in groups because it’s a good survival strategy but they don’t really care. Catch a zebra and his family won’t follow, try to ride him and you’ll be lucky to keep your fingers. Zebra look like horses on the outside, but not on the inside. So that’s the checklist:
Friendly – Feedable – Fecund – Family Friendly It’s not a long checklist, but for Hunter-Gatherers, any animal they wanted to domesticate needed everything,… …which is why in early human history only a bakers dozen of big animals were domesticated the world over. [music] This video has been brought to you by audible.com. And if you like checklists as much as I do,… I’m going to recommend to you the book “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. Yes! There’s an entire book about how important and life-changing checklists can be… …and what makes a good checklist and what makes a bad checklist, … with examples from the airline industry to war time, to just your regular daily life. I highly recommend it. Go to audible.com/grey for a free trial in Audible and give “The Checklist Manifesto”a listen. Audible has have over 180,000 things for you to listen to and I listen to audiobooks all the time to improve my life. Why not get started today by going to Audible.com/grey? [music]

100 thoughts on “Zebra vs Horses: Animal Domestication

  1. Talks about how carnivores cant be domesticated, while dogs and cats are both pure carnivores and the most commonly owned animals on earth

  2. Pathetic dribble. Yet another list of "reasons" for the lack of animal domestication in Africa. Absolutely ludicrous reasoning showing an utter lack of knowledge and understanding of history and animal husbandry.

  3. Your explanation for why zebras weren't domesticated isn't too convincing. They are not "different on the inside" from horses. Horses and zebras are both species in the same genus. And, bastards though they may be, zebras aren't any more ornery than wild horses. Both can be tamed, especially if you start to tame them as early as possible.

  4. I still say that we should be living WITH the land, NOT on it . Migrating and giving it full seasons to recover, NOT conjuring up worthless pieces/paper thin sheets of an item that forces us to go do things that we're NOT supposed to be doing according to the Great Creator's plans. Top that off with remaining in the same exact area, keeping others out, by fighting them off to the death. So that we can call it our own, call it private, and call it what you like…..at the end of the day, all you will have left, with enough time passed….is a big pile of shit. Thank you very much alarm clock for disturbing my excellent sleep.

  5. The ancestors of cows were exactly like buffalo, the ancestors of horses exactly like zebras. They started mean, we made them docile

  6. Y’all are so sure of your facts of taming, breeding, and domestication? Yet?, we are the saddest example.
    Anything the gvt monster regulates? We acquiesce to to the monster we created. Freedom means nothing when a human becomes a pet Thanks to gvt and public education. Yet, we see so clearly all species , but us?
    We pay taxes so that gvt can absolve instinct and nature. Then, we watch these poor animals? Cmon.
    We willingly pay slavery tax for “ services”. Just which animal is domesticated? Of course

  7. Yo dude. I liked and subscribed. I like your content, and how you are not begging us to like and subscribe.

  8. Catching carnivores is amazingly useful! Not for food, obviously, but for hunting (like dogs) or pest control (like cats).

  9. They don't capture the lead male, they capture the lead mare. As a rule, stallions are more outsiders of the herd. They are lead by a lead mare.

  10. How to get a girlfriend:
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    5} Tell to hold those things you packed real quick and that you'll be right back
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  11. 04:50 :- )))) and then the cat with that face…
    dog: – yoooohooo, the alpha is home, home! the lord, my MAAASER!!
    cat: – yoo late, slayv. giv I many foodz. now!

  12. Zebras only travel together for survival and don’t give a fuck about family values like other domesticated animals hence why their useless for human use?……… Then Zebras are the gangstas of the animal world.

    Zebra = Gangsta

  13. You forgot the fourth "F". Flammable!
    Tallow was a major driver for domestication. Beeswax just wasn't plentiful enough & before whale oil, gas & eventually electricity tallow was the major light source. Tallow candles were smelly, sooty & dim but it was all huge swathes of people had.
    We evolved to eat plants, seafood, birds & all the gazelle/deer variants. Our bodies can cope with the fats in seafood, birds, olants & the deer type animals are very lean.
    But, what makes a good tallow candle is the hard, saturated fats (suet) from cows, sheep & pork. But it's the setting qualities that meant your candle stayed upright that causes us trouble. Setting in our arteries just like in candle moulds. It's why fish oils don't clog arteries. Fish live in cold seawater & if their fat set they wouldn't be able to move!
    So, the fourth F, flammability, has caused us problems ever since. Hard fats, originally such a plus point in the domestication stakes, now kills millions as it sets in their arteries as it used to set in candle moulds.

  14. Except that the germans totally tamed zebras back in ww1 and definitely could've domesticated them if they so pleased. The only reason zebras weren't domesticated in Africa is because of the bell curve. Pretty much every other society ended up domesticating whatever species/ancestor of horse was available to them back then, and you can be sure it wasn't because every other horse-like creature around the world was "easier and more suited" to domestication and that "zebras just happened to be more difficult". One look at the level of innovation seen throughout the ages in sub-saharan Africa and it's clear to see why no progress was ever made.

  15. Zebras can't be tamed? False.
    Exhibit A: Sheena (film), 1984.
    I rest my case.

    (just kidding: they painted stripes on a horse and it was hilarious)

  16. Wait i know an animal that i think ticks all those requirements that isn't domesticated the tapir , it behaves like a pig , it has a snout like a pig , and its a little bigger than a wild boar so like between a cow and a pig in size , meaning a lot of meat , the only reason why humans have not domesticated it is that it lives in jungles and is hard to reach but personally i think if someone would try they could tame and domesticate i think it would work it because it actually convergently evolved to resemble a pig because there were no pigs on the continent where it evolved so it was an open niche to be used up.

  17. I like most of the video but the explanation of equine social groups is very reductionist. There are 3 species and 7 subspecies (aside from certain debates about subspecies) and differences in social organization exist between some of them. The largest difference is between Grevy's zebras/Equus Grevyi and the other zebras of the subgenus Hippotigris, which includes the plains zebra and the mountain zebra. The latter two are harem species, not unlike horses, that live in herds of various sizes and are highly social. The Grevy's zebra is much less social, with stallions defending home territories through which mares and foals roam, similar to the African wild ass, which is thought to be the ancestor of the domestic donkey. Herds of zebras congregate in areas that have the most resources like water, etc. and multiple groups may cluster together at times, which can be advantageous b/c that makes it harder for a predator to single individuals out. Individual herds of zebras, though, can be small, and they have a sort of pecking order much like other social species do.

    These social differences alone do not account for the domestication of horses and donkeys as opposed to zebras. The ranges of horses and different species of wild asses overlap in Eurasia, and wild asses also live in northern Africa, so the regions with the earliest known civilizations happen to coincide with with their historic ranges. I think the first evidence of the domestication of horses is from Kazakhstan. The last truly wild and not feral horse is the Przewalski's horse or the Asiatic/Mongolian wild horse, and they have QUITE a reputation for being "stubborn" and aggressive. Any undomesticated species will of course be less forgiving. I think some of it may just come down to the availability of domestic horses and asses vs. the difficulty of domesticating a new species. Zebras definitely are aggressive, not doubting that at all, but they aren't impossible to tame and could possibly be domesticated. The payoff to people in early civilizations though may not have been enough to encourage their domestication when other similar species were already domesticated (I think, personally). In more recent times some people have taken up breeding and training zebras and zebroids (zebra-horse/donkey hybrids), and my understanding is that it is recommended that an aspiring zebra trainer have experience with donkeys and mules in addition to horses on account of some temperamental similarities between asses and zebras. A donkey or mule is more likely to stand it's ground and fight than a horse is, which is one reason that donkeys and mules are sometimes employed to help defend herds of sheep from predators. At times in the past zorses/zebra mules have been bred in Africa on account of the zebra's resistance to sleeping sickness spread by the tsetse fly.

    ANYWAY. . . I have a long-standing interest in equines and equine behavior. I suppose my username is a tip-off. XDDD

  18. Cats have family values tho and are domesticated to an extent tho not as much as dogs, much caused by dogs being more useful to many different task. Cats mostly for killing rodents and small creatures. Plus dogs are scavengers, meaning they are more dependable than cats as hunters(more independent). And cats are harder to catch lol.

  19. The author compares animals that have been domesticated for 10,000+ years to wild animals as if the wild ancestors of dogs, cows, horses, chickens and goats were as Friendly, Feedable, Fecund and Family Friendly as their modern decedents.

  20. There is an encyclopedia of information in the five minutes here! Hilarious too! Thank you for the knowledge and entertainment!

    I could dig deeper into zebra evolution but have a quick observation for what it's worth. A paleontology channel noted that European cave art from millennia ago showed horses with a few stripes, notably on the legs. The presenter said no one knew why the horses–meat animals in the paleolithic society–were depicted with these stripes. I commented that here in the western U.S., some of our wild mustangs are noted for stripes on their legs. I believe these are found in the Keiger mustang herds. Prototype riding horse is said to be Przwalski's horse from central Asia, which IMO resembles a burro. Is it possible the horses of paleolithic Europe were closer to zebras genetically?

  21. When people claim they're against GMOs I always gotta point out that most of our produce isnt straight from the wild. The bananas we eat arent the same exact wild bananas that humans cultivated so they are GMOs by default

  22. The domestication of hogs ??? Hogs, i do not believe to be domesticated . Thus the term a fence hog tight . pre modern that is almost impossible and even with modern technology they can get free if the electric goes off . And then try to catch them . . Through breeding and feeding (Their weakness ,both )and extreme over weight they may become more docile . I have seen domestic hogs catch and kill stuff and eat it.They had loads of grain . they have a blood thirst ,and are a bit like sharks . History records them eating hurt humans . And they are so wild if they get out they have no problem surviving in the wild . Thus the epidemic of feral pigs.

  23. Lived your Narration and your silly-ness.

    NOT ONLY, Did I STAY AWAKE… I WANTED to see the Part 2

    – Wished You had been my History Teacher.

    – JayJay the Mad 😻🐧

  24. Stallions are not the leaders in pack of horses the females are, also humans did not originate in Africa, but i guess it is nice to think so…

  25. There is another distinction between domesticated animals. Wolves were the first, when we were still nomadic hunter-gatherers, everything else was domesticated after agriculture become a thing.

    Considering that, we could say our civilization is in fact a dog civilization as well, since we wouldn't be here without our dogs.

  26. Domestication = Sculpting animals for better human use = manipulation and exploitation basically ! A very egocentric human tendency.

  27. would love a video just on sheep wool, like how do they clean it, get rid of the outer layer covered in poop and dirt, etc.

  28. BETTER QUESTION, why didn't the Africans WHO LEFT Africa, not take the horse, the pig, cattle and sheep then RETURN TO AFRICA?
    It's not like they had to compete with whites or Asians because we didn't exist.

    REAL men (but not LIBERALS and women) will plan for GENERATIONS to build, Liberals and women want it all NOW
    but will destroy everything to have their way.
    If YOU, a woman, a NA Indian, blacks or the average person WON'T even try then it can't be done.

    Wasn't the Asian Elephant domesticated and has been for hundreds of years and WORKED?
    But we MUST make excuses as to why Africans didn't domesticate the African Elephant, don't want to compare
    what they didn't do with what another race DID DO.

    We don't expect the average person to do what others see as impossible, you expect the extraordinary individuals to do it.

    When you have horses WHY try to domesticate Zebras? BUT if all we had were Zebras THEY WOULD have been domesticated, bred for work and ridden OR used to pull carts. Google images… zebras pulling carts or carriages. Blacks had Zebra for how many millenia
    and how long was it after whites had access to Zebra before they were saddled or puled a cart?
    LESS than a handful of the THOUSANDS of Sub Saharan African languages were written, it they weren't willing to take the time and energy to CREATE written languages, why assume they would take the time to breed the zebras that CAN easily be ridden or put in harness?
    GOOGLE riding Zebra for sale.
    BUFFALO have been ridden and domesticated… JUST NOT by North American Indians.
    Google Buffalo rider.
    Caribou COULD be domesticated but the N American Indians didn't bother.
    Try to walk near rivers or lakes near many Canadian or American cities today and NOT have Canada Geese around.
    Why didn't the Indians domesticate the Canada goose, wild turkey or prairie chicken?

    It seems the problem isn't if you can take generations to domesticate and breed for bigger, stronger and more docile
    Zebra… the problem is those in sub Saharan Africa weren't prepared to do it.

  29. There are people who ride zebras. My farrier used to trim feet on one. There are special people out there that can in a matter of a few hours take a wild mustang and have it under saddle and working cows. Speaking of cows. There is a difference between handling dairy cows and beef cows. Dairy cows are much more docile because they are handled every day. Some beef cows may not see people for a year. They should be considered wild when handling.

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