Quagga (Equus quagga)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family:    Equidae
Size:    Height: 52 inches (1.3 m) at the withers (13 hands—one hand = 4 inches/10 cm)
Weight: 500 to 700 pounds (227 to 318 kg)
Diet: Grass, twigs, leaves, herbs and fruit
Distribution: Africa
Young:  1 every other year
Animal Predators: 

Lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyenas

IUCN Status: Extinct
Terms: Male: Stallion   Female:  Mare   Young: Foal   Group: Herd   

Approximately 15 years



·       The last known living quagga died August 12, 1883 in the Amsterdam zoo.

·       There are only five known photos of a living quagga, taken in 1870.

·       Zebra stripes are like human fingerprints—no two zebras have the same stripe pattern.

·       The Hottentots called both Burchell’s zebras and quaggas by the same name.

·       Burchell’s zebras and quaggas are more horse-like than other zebras.



Quaggas obtained their name from their warning cry, which sounded like “Kwa-ha-ha.” The plains zebra, also known as Burchell’s zebra, has the same distinctive cry, and it is believed that quaggas were a subspecies of the plains zebra. Quaggas were identified by their colouring—although they had dark stripes on a white head, the stripes slowly became a solid brown colour somewhere behind the shoulder. Some plains zebras have stripes that fade out towards their hind end, which led researchers to do DNA tests on the plains zebra and samples from a quagga hide. The tests showed that the animals had the exact same DNA, proving that quaggas were a subspecies, differing only in appearance from the plains zebra. 



Quaggas once inhabited the open plains of South Africa in large numbers. 


Feeding Habits

Quaggas spent most of the day grazing, eating grass, bark, leaves, herbs and fruit. They were usually found near a water source, as they needed to drink daily. 



Quagga mares usually had their first foal when they were three years of age. There was no defined mating season, although more foals seemed to be born from December to January. The mare underwent a 12-month pregnancy, and when she was about to give birth, the male would stand guard over her while she laid down. The newborn could stand within minutes, and within an hour, could run awkwardly, but well enough to keep up with the herd. The mother licked the foal all over to clean it after birth, but also to imprint her scent on it, so it could find her again in the herd. The foal began eating grass within a week, but kept nursing until seven to 11 months old.



Quaggas lived in herds of one stallion and several females and juveniles. Stallions would form their own herd by enticing young females from their father’s herd. When a member of the herd became sick or lame, the herd slowed its pace so the slowest member could keep up. They would also search and/or call out if a member was missing, until they located the lost member. At night, while most of the herd dozed, one or more members would stay awake to act as a sentinel. Quaggas were social animals often found in the company of other animals, such as the wildebeest and ostrich. Each animal had a special talent for detecting predators—the wildebeest has a wonderful sense of smell, the ostrich has keen eyesight, and the quagga had excellent hearing—giving these animals, when found together, great protection from being surprised.



European settlers, who prized colourful skins, hunted quaggas to extinction. Farmers, worried that quaggas were competing with their livestock for grazing space, took great efforts to eliminate them. The last wild quagga was shot to death in 1878. Protection was granted by the government in the late 1880s, well after quaggas had become extinct. Quaggas in zoos did not prove to be good breeders in captivity. Stallions especially were very energetic and high-strung, and would explode into fits of temper, enraged and despondent by being held captive. The London Zoo was hoping to breed quaggas in the 1860s, but the stallion they possessed did not survive. Taxidermist Reinhold Rau became interested in quaggas when he saw a stuffed, moth-eaten quagga in Cape Town, South Africa. He already knew that the southern-most populations of plains zebras (Burchell’s) had lighter coloured stripes than those found in other areas, so when DNA tests proved that the quagga was a subspecies of the plains zebra, differing only in colouring, Rau set out to recreate the quagga. In 1987 he rounded up all the plains zebras he could get that had lighter stripes towards their hind ends and a larger percentage of brown fur than other zebras, and bred them. There are 24 stuffed quaggas around the world, and the offspring of the bred zebras already match some of the more heavily striped quaggas. Rau believes a quagga with a striped head and a brown back could be born any day, or it could take up to 30 years.