TWO weeks ago we covered a topic about how the zebra refused to be domesticated, the article dwelt on different factors but how these animals are capable to use its hind legs to defend itself is the major factor which enabled it to remain in the savannah although its closest relatives donkey and horse were domesticated between 17,000 and 5,000 years ago when the donkey was domesticated by nomadic people of Africa.
Different records indicate that efforts to domesticate the zebra started in 1892 in London when Walter Rothschild tried to teach a group of zebras to pull carriage through different streets of London.
In 1893 captain Horace Hayes trained and used zebra to carry his wife from one point to another, in 1907 doctor Rosendo Ribeiro who worked in Nairobi tried to domesticate and train zebra to pull an ambulance carriage for one first European hospitals in the city.
History shows that in 1911 the Germans who ruled Tanganyika tried to train zebras to be used for transportation and replace horses who were imported from Europe.
Meanwhile until the death of Walter Rothschild in 1937 there is no details of why the project of domestication of the zebra did not bear fruits, but the absence of domesticated zebra pulling carriages in streets of London, Nairobi or Dar es salaam today is a clear indication that the zebra refused to be tamed.
Zebras are easily agitated and aggressive when cornered, zoologists say zebra doesn’t just kick with the leg. Instead it looks between its legs in order to accurately place its kicks and then bucks and kicks violently with both back legs.
Moreover, to give an idea of the power of a zebra’s kick, you need to know that no horse has ever broken a lion’s jaw but it is well known that few people have ever walked away after being kicked by a zebra, animal also known to inflict nasty bite wounds on each other and on people when they defend themselves against humans.
Zebras are members of horse family which is made by more than seven different species including wild horse and the beautiful stripped mammal of the African savannah, to survive through the fast changing environment the ancestors of zebra, nature gave them different abilities over and other animals including super predators of the savannah where there is nowhere to hide.
In the vast grasslands of Serengeti a lion need to be smart in the use of vegetation, land formation and others when targeting a prey, at the same time while grazing zebra must be the first to see when such an attack is moving toward their way.
Zebras have lateral eyes animals, this means their eyes are positioned on the side of the head to provide them a range of visions including more than 350° whereby about 65° of this being binocular vision and the remaining 285° monocular vision, scientists say binocular vision in biology is described as a type of vision in which an animal having two eyes is able to recognise a single three dimensional image of its surroundings.
Scientists say Zebras have powerful hindquarters that can deliver a kick with force strong enough to break a crocodile’s jaw, zebras are usually considered to have the strongest kick and have been known to kill a 280 kilogrammes male African lion with a single body kick.
It is thought that a zebra can kick with nearly 1,360.8 kilogrammes of force, different reports from the savannah show that, after coming under attack a zebra may deliver a powerful kick a lion chest and send it on the ground where it will be very luck to walk away alive.
Reports show in most cases zebras kick with their hind legs when they are followed too closely by any types of animals except their kind and scientists say the rear hoof kicks pack the most power because of the force of the powerful hindquarters among super predators.
The cheetah knows what the zebra is capable to do to its enemy that is why most of the time it does not target it, one may say size and weight of the key factor because an adult cheetah weighs between 21 and 72 kilogrammes’ and stands 66 to 94 centimetres tall at the shoulder while the zebra weighs about 350 kilogrammes which force the more than two courageous cheetahs to work together to bring down a zebra while avoiding the deadliest kicks.
On the other side adult lion weighs between 130 and 280 kilogrammes, due to the size and social structure lions are not afraid of zebras, from Selous game reserve, Ruaha national park to Serengeti national park lions prefer prey weighing between 190 and 550 kilogrammes, which makes the zebra to be one of their favourable prey after the wildebeest.
Hunting a zebra is not an easy task because when attacked by packs of hyenas or wild dogs a zebra group will huddle together with the foals in the middle while the stallion tries to ward them off, apart from being able to defend themselves, zebra are very agile animals with top speed ranging between 55 and 64 kilometres per hour for a long distance while lions can manage to click 80 per hour for a short distance.
Scientists say zebras have four HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/Horse_gait” o “Horse gait” gaits which are walk, trot, canter and gallop. They are generally slower than horses, but their great stamina helps them outrun predators.
When chased, a zebra will zig-zag from side to side, making it more difficult for the predator to attack but they are cornered, they will rear up and kick or bite its attacker. There are many recorded cases of zebras killing lions and this is usually caused by a kick to the head, causing death or a broken jaw, thus causing the lion to starve.
To give an idea of the power of a zebra’s kick, one needs just to point out that no horse has ever broken a lion’s jaw. Furthermore, few people have ever walked away after being kicked by a zebra and to get a clear picture of it happens.
Scientists say a zebra doesn’t just kick with the leg, instead it looks between its legs in order to accurately place its kicks and then bucks and kicks violently with both back legs.
The structure of the zebra’s body provides it with a unique ability to deliver a powerful kick against its enemy, scientists say the zebra’s legs and hooves have also unique structures, their leg bones are proportioned differently from those of a human because the zebra’s skeleton is made up by about 205 bones, their forelimbs are attached to the spinal column by a powerful set of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the shoulders and whole body when it rise the rear part to make the strongest kick in the savannah.
Their pelvic and thoracic limbs contain the same number of bones, 20 bones per limb, bones are connected to muscles via tendons and other bones via ligaments.
All these work together with the muscles, and this is proven when a muscle contracts, it pulls a tendon, which acts on the zebra’s bones to move them, not only that, muscles are commonly arranged in pairs so that they oppose each other with one flexing the joint and the other extending, this mechanism provides the backbone a unique flexibility when it works with hind legs to deliver the kick.
The zebra’s legs and hooves have a unique structure, the leg bones are proportioned differently from those of humans and other animals in the wild such as big cats. Zebra also has no muscles in its legs below the knees and hocks, only skin, hair, bone, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and the assorted specialised tissues.
Farmers believe a kick from a donkey is capable to bend an iron bar, on the other side scientists say horse, donkey and zebra are found in the horse family which paleontologists say ancestors of modern equidae evolved about 54 million years ago and passed through different complex stages which enabled the evolution of genus of equus, a group of mammals which include a horse which is believed to have evolved about 32 to 37 million years ago.
These historical facts are proven by a say which goes by “no foot, no horse” The zebras hoof begins with what is called the distal phalanges which is equivalent to the human fingertip or tip of the toe, it is surrounded by cartilage and other specialised, bloodrich soft tissues which make it be flexible for a powerful kick.
The exterior parts of hooves are made by the same material as a human fingernail, this is to say the hooves walls are much larger, thicker and stronger version of the human fingernail or toenail, made up of similar materials, primarily keratin, which is a very strong protein molecule.
Scientists say the zebra’s hooves contain high proportion of sulfur-containing amino acids which contribute to its resilience, toughness and sharp when the land on their target after the zebra unleashed the deadliest kick in the savannah.
Zoologists say this unique structure enables the zebras to travel more 30,000 square kilometers around the greater Serengeti Eco System. Nature is kind because during this action packed event, the surface of the hooves are eroded but nature replaces the torn parts after every five to eight weeks.
Scientists believe that hooves of zebras in the savannah wear down and regrow at a rate suitable for their terrain, this ability enables the hind legs of a zebra to remain with a sharp and powerful end throughout its life, ranging between 15 and 20 years.