Relatives of the Zebra

Relatives of the Zebra
••• Marc Moraitis/iStock/GettyImages

The three species of zebra belong to the family Equidae. Zebras are equines and closely related to horses and donkeys. This family has several surviving species besides zebras, including wild horses, feral donkeys and wild asses. Zebras are more distantly related to other members of their order Perrisodactyla, a group of herbivores that includes rhinoceroses and tapirs.

Wild Horse

Przewalski's wild horse (Equus ferus przewalkskii) belongs to the same species as the familiar domestic horse, although it is a genetically separate subspecies. The species was extinct in the wild until reintroduction efforts began in the 1990s. Wild herds are now in Mongolia, and attempts to get wild populations established in China, Khazakstan and the Ukraine are ongoing. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature still lists Przewalkski’s wild horses as “critically endangered,” and there are only about 50 truly wild individuals as of 2011.

Domestic Horse

Humans domesticated the horse (Equus ferus caballus) over 5,000 years ago, primarily as a working animal, although its meat is edible and consumed in some countries to this day. Several feral populations of once domestic horses have reverted to the wild. Examples include the mustangs of North America and the brumbies of Australia.

Donkey

The donkey (Equus africanus) has a few surviving wild populations in Asia and Africa and is a widely bred domestic animal, with several feral populations. The African wild ass is probably the ancestor of the domestic donkey. While domestic donkeys are widespread throughout the world, the wild forms are endangered.

Kulan

The kulan, or Asian wild ass (Equus hemionus) is native to southeast Asia, in particular Mongolia, although its range was far wider in the past, extending into Europe. Kulans are endangered because of habitat destruction, competition with livestock for water and food, and hunting for meat. Their population is still declining.

Kiang

The kiang or Tibetan wild ass (Equus kiang) lives in mountainous habitats of Tibet and its range extends into Pakistan, India and Nepal. Although the kiang is vulnerable to habitat destruction, enough individuals survive over a wide enough area that the species is not yet under threat.

Quagga

Humans drove the once numerous quagga (Equus quagga quagga) to extinction in 1883. In appearance, the quagga was similar to the surviving species of zebra; although it had a dun color and lacked stripes on its back. An ongoing project is underway to breed animals genetically and morphologically similar to the quagga from closely related plains zebras, of which the quagga was a subspecies.

Related Articles

Endangered Species in the African Savanna
The Endangered Animals of Deciduous Forest Biomes
How Did Bison Almost Become Extinct?
Endangered Species in the European Deciduous Forest
Wolves That Live in Temperate Grasslands
List of the Top Ten Endangered Animals
What Kind of Endangered Animal Lives in Taiga?
Seven Stages of Early Man
Why Are Jaguars Endangered Animals?
Endangered Woodland Animals
What Types of Wild Cats Live in New York?
Ancestors of the Hedgehog
Characteristics of a Jackal
Facts About Dinosaurs for Kids
Native Plants & Animals of China
What Are Some Endangered Animals in the Earth's Grassland...
What Plants Are Close Relatives of Marijuana?
Do Elk Have Ivory Teeth?
The Differences Between a Puma, a Cougar and a Mountain...
What Is the Horn of a Rhino Made Of?

Dont Go!

We Have More Great Sciencing Articles!