Quagga – the extinct zebra of South Africa
Only during the last centuries, several impressive animal species became extinct because of overhunting. The Quagga in South Africa is one of them.
The Quagga is the most southern subspecies of the Savannah zebra, which is found from East Africa southwards to the Cape Province.
Quaggas drawn in the 1800s (Click to view larger image).
Different Stripes of species by habitat (Click to view larger image).
Following a cline the typical dark striped zebra fur shows southwards more and more shadow-stripes between the dark stripes and loose its famous zebra design.
The Quagga as the most southern subspecies showed the typical zebra stripes only on the head and neck. The stripes are fading on the shoulder and became a reddish brown unicolor on the back and hump. The legs were crème colored and not striped. The belly was light or darker brown.
Features of the quagga (Click to view larger image).
Even still in the 18th century, the Quagga was the most common larger mammal species in South Africa. But then the Boorish farmers from the Netherlands started an extensive hunting on the Quaggas. The farmers saw the Quagga as a food concurrent for their own herds of cattle. Besides they hunted the Quagga because of its meat and leather, but also just for fun. Around 1850, the Quagga was already extinct south of the Oranje river. The last free living Quaggas were found in the Oranje Free State. But also here the last animal was probably killed in the late 1870ies and since the large drought in 1877 the wild living Quagga has to be considered as extinct.Only a very few Quaggas still lived in zoos. Probably the last Quagga in captivity, which arrived on May 9, 1867 in Amsterdam zoo, died there on August 12, 1883. But it is not perfectly clear, if this female Quagga in the Amsterdam Zoo was really the last living specimen, because in that time very often all zebras were called “Quagga” and definitely a real Quagga was also kept in the Berlin zoo. Altogether 24 stuffed Quaggas and their skeletons are found in the Natural History Museums worldwide, ten of them are in seven German museums.
Stuffed specimen in Leiden NH museum, Netherland (Click to view larger image).
During the last years it was tried in South Africa by re-crossing of some zebras with lighter stripes and genetic material of Quaggas to breed a Quagga type zebra. Over the years it was possible to achieve as a result of all these breeding attempts a zebra with fading stripes on the back and hump.
But of course these animals are never Quaggas again, because extinct wild animals cannot be bred by man again. This is quite a different case for domestic animals, which are always special breeds and which can be repeated again and again. – However also the Quagga-like zebra as well as the stuffed animals in the museums can give us a good, emotional impression, how Quaggas in reality looked and what the mankind lost because of the overhunting on this species. In our Lost Zoo, the Quagga-like zebras share their large enclosure with a variety of savannah animals, such as elands, greater kudu, springbucks, and ostriches. I order to keep the Quaggas’ hoof short, the ground is hard in some places, while there are sandy areas for resting and sunbathing. On hot days the Quagga can find shade under the large trees. There are also small roofed installments in the enclosure and near the stables in case of heavy rain. At night and during icy winter days the Quagga are kept in separate stables to avoid fights over for the food.