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INFORMATION ON OWNING A ZEBRAS FROM THEIR TEMPERAMENT, TRAINING AND CARE
ZEBRA OWNING INFORMATION
Thinking of owning a zebra or zebra cross? Take the time to do your research and make sure they are the right animal for you! They are not something you will want to jump into, you will need time to prepare and make sure your ready. Zebras are a wild animal and not domesticated like a horse. Since they are a wild animal and can be unpredictable.... they are not a child's pet! Best handler for a zebra would be a experienced horse owner and best to have mule training experience. Sadly a lot of zebra are passed around due to people jumping into a purchasing and not be able to handle them. Zebras are not like owning a horse, and a lot of people are shocked when they hear me say that! Like I said above keep in mind zebras are still a wild animal, their wild instincts are high. They are less trusting then a horse and have high flight instincts. They are much more alert and get nervous in certain situations. Training a zebra takes a lot of patience and handling. Simple task like haltering and leading can take a lot of time to perfect. They need consistent handling, a zebra that is just turned out to pasture and not handled will go back to its wild side. Zebras need all the proper training to help them be easier to work with. Zebras geldings or mares are the best to have. Zebra stallions are more likely to have behavioral issues. Once they reach breeding age (5 to 7 yrs old) most will prefer not to be handled by humans anymore and they are known for getting aggressive towards both humans and other animals. Horses and zebras do not have the same breeding language so a stud out with horses can be super risky due to a frustrated stallion. Do a lot of thinking before keeping a zebra a stud and make sure you talk to others who have zebra studs on this. Colts should be gelded at a young age and as soon as a few weeks old to keep them from getting behavioral issues later on.
FINDING THE RIGHT BREEDER
Research should be done about the breeder before purchasing from them. When it comes to exotics many breeders just breed for the money and don't put any effort into what they are breeding for. If your looking for a zebra to do a lot of handling this is important to ensure your zebra will have the right temperament to allow handling. The best zebra foal to purchase would be one that is mother raised!! And the mother is able to be handled so the foal can also be at birth! Unfortunately this is hard to find as most of the big zebra breeders are not able to handle their stock. As adult breeding stock can be hard to handle and Zebra stallions once they start breeding can also get really aggressive to both humans and other animals. Bottle raising can work for some foals, but most of the time it creates a monster. Most breeders choice to bottle raise since they can't handle their stock. They will pull their foals at 2 weeks old while they are easy to handle, and put them on the bottle. This is a lot of stress on such a young foal. Most breeders will ship them off to auctions right away as nothing sells better then a cute fuzzy foal on a bottle. This can be super risky for the foal being pulled away from its mother so young and then shipped around. The risk of them getting sick is pretty high, which can result in death of the foal. Bottle babies are more prone to have attitude and temperament issues due to not having that motherly figure. They tend be real sweet and bound to you strongly as you're now their mother, and have the milk they want. People can't help but spoil them! But since they never had that discipline once older they can become real disrespectful. In most cases this makes them a lot harder to train as they don't like being told what to do. This is the same with other equines too. Teaching them to be respectful once older is a huge challenge once they already picked up bad habits. In my opinion if a foal needs to be pulled away from its mother due to her being wild, I always suggest the baby being bucket raised not bottle. The bucket should not be held while the foal eats. But placed in front of the foal and then walk away. You are now just the cow producing the milk and not the mother figure. To help teach this foal manner and respect add in a adult mini horse or donkey to help teach the foal manners.
Zebras are extremely strong, smart and sensitive which this combination has given them that un-trainable name. Zebras are trainable but not many people understand them and try to use harsh training techniques on them in which doesn't work. Zebras need to be trained with gentle training techniques, they can't be forced to do anything they don't want to do. Zebras tend to panic under stress and can seriously hurt themselves or their handler. They will shut down and freeze like a donkey will, which gives them that stubborn name. Also, can also turn aggression to protect themselves against force. In order to train a zebra you MUST earn their trust first!! This can take a lot of time, zebra training can not be rushed to get results. Therefore you must be patient! If a good bound is created a zebra can be trained to do a lot of things a horse can. Although not all zebra will ever get to the point of being ridden. It really takes a zebra will a exceptional temperament and the right training to get to that point. Like I tell everyone if it was easy you would see people in Africa riding them around instead of walking! You would also see more of them being ridden here in the US. Even a zebra who rides will not ride like a horse, they generally only allow short riding periods. Zebra just do not have a good work ethic. They are more comparable to a cat- like to be petted but don't ask them to work, were you can compare a horse more like a dog wanting a job. Most zebras owners like to describe their zebras as sassy. They will for sure let you know what they like and don't. When handling a zebra caution should always be made as they are not afraid to bite or kick to let you know if they don't like something. Most people can not handle the challenge that zebras are and end up letting them go wild, that is why you see a lot of un-handle able adult zebras out there. There are also some zebras who just don't have the right temperament to be handled and its safer that they are not. But a zebra with a good temperament can be a joy for the right handler to work with. A zebra who trust its owner will have a extremely strong bound! Its not uncommon for a zebra to bound so strong that they allow its owner to handle them but not let anyone else touch them. They tend to be untrusting of outsiders and keep them at a especially as adults. Simple tasks like vet work can be challenging stocks may have to be used but the zebra must have had training to stand in them first otherwise most of the time vet will just want to fully sedate to be able to work on them..
Zebras are similar to donkeys when it comes to feeding you really have to watch their weight. A healthy zebras will be a easy keeper. BUT at the same time they must get all the proper nutrition even if they dont need a lot of feed. Grazing is super important for zebras, so do not plan on keeping one in a dry lot. They don't need a real rich diet so need to stay away from feeding pure alfalfa. A alfalfa/grass mix is good for growing foals and pregnant/nursing mares. They do best on a good quality grass hay. We will feed them lots of extra hay to help keep warm during the winter. When it comes to grain they don't need a lot BUT they need a good quality grain. They should not get fed a lot of junk grain or sweet feed. A grain that is low in sugar is best. The problem with a lot of cheaper grains you have to feed so much to reach the correct nutrition levels. Here I feed Tribute feeds as its a corn free grain and low in sugar. I feel a lot of issues are caused by feeding a lot of corn to equines. Our pregnant mares and growing foals also get a top dressing of Tribute essential K to ensure they get all the vitamins and minerals they need. There is also a grain called Mazauri Zebra pellets especially formulated for them.. We also make sure we always keep a few different kinds of mineral blocks out for them (White Salt, Red Mineral, and the tan block with in Selenium.. Selenium blocks are super important for zebras especially to pregnant mares to ensure the foals don't end up with heart disease. Also Vitamin E is important as zebras are well known for having Vitamin E deficiencies. Mineral blocks are super important as if they are not getting what they need they will dig holes and eat dirt which can cause sand colic. Zebras drink a lot of water so its important to keep fresh water for them at all times. If your located in a colder state I highly suggest also purchasing from a breeder in a colder state. This will ensure the zebra will handle the winter ok. Herds of zebras that have been bred in colder states for years have adjusted well to the climate and the foals grow winter coats. Bringing in a zebra from a warmer state can be super hard on them during the winter months. They will also need heated water and a good shelter to get out of the weather. Most zebras do not do well with being confined in a stall. They can start to get stressed and start anxious behaviors like stall weaving or walking. They do best being able to come and go out of their shelter as they prefer. Shelters needs to be dry so they have a place to get out of moisture and their feet to dry out. Being in a wet area all the time will cause issues in their feet and skin around the hooves. Some zebras might still need to be blanketed during the winter months depending on how they handle the weather. Which can be a challenge getting a blanket on some zebras. Our stallion even though was born in a colder state and has been here in MI for many years he still doesn't grow much of a winter coat. We blanket him as he gets miserable in the cold without it. Once on he does just fine in the cold and will spend most of his time outside.
Along with Proper Nutrition, worming and vaccinating is also important. Zebras can get all the same sicknesses that are known to horses. You must know your zebra well to tell if anything might be off. Zebras do not let their guard down and often show no signs of sickness until it too late. They do not show the same signs of pain like a horse would for things like colic. So owners must watch their zebras closely for any behavior that he/she might be acting slightly off. Also make note of their body condition, this is usually the best indication something is wrong. Zebras tend to loose weight first in the chest and along top line. A Unhealthy zebra will really lack in muscle tone (especially in neck) and have a poor hair coat. Cold weather can bring on a sickness fast that they might of been hiding.
PASTURING AND FENCING
Zebras need a good amount of room to move around, and should not be confined to a small space. They also do best with a pasture companion, they are a herd animal. As far as fencing, I always suggest at least 6 ft tall fencing for zebras and something solid like woven no climb horse fencing. Also field fence or chain link works well too. Most breeders go with 8 ft fencing to ensure safety. Zebras can hop over a short fence with ease. And since their flight instincts are high they tend to react without thinking or if pushed they will run right through wire fencing or anything with spacing. Wood boards they can push right through also. Zebras are well known for escaping and will test the fencing if its not solid.
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