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Old 06-02-2016, 11:29 AM
CannyDan CannyDan is offline
Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: East coast of Florida
Posts: 2,706
Originally Posted by TokyoBayer View Post
It's been several years since I read Jared's book, but if you have something which can definitively rebut his expert opinion, I'd love to hear it.
No, I make no such claim. My former wife rode and trained horses to a high level of performance, even bred a few, and I was intimately involved in her hobby/business for a couple of decades. I work professionally with wild animals. So I believe I have some applicable background, although not enough to consider my own word to be authoritative. Still, I’m comfortable saying that the “it can’t be done because it hasn’t been done” argument doesn’t totally satisfy me.

I wasn’t speaking of training any single animal to a specific and reliable level of performance that would make a zebra comparable to a horse. That does appear to be, if not impossible, at least approaching it. Instead though I was speaking of a lengthy program of selective breeding for tractability (and any other desirable traits that could be augmented by selection while not compromising the primary goal of tractability). I don’t believe this has ever been done. And so I can speculate that it might be – in fact it should be – successful.

Why has the zebra never been domesticated in such a manner by any of the indigenous peoples living alongside zebras? Again I’ll speculate. To do so would require a stable society with a surplus of resources and an ability to sacrifice short term benefit to long term goals. A herd of captive zebras, undomesticated but fenced, could supply meat to the tribe all year long. This might arguably be benefit enough, and could eventually result in domesticated zebras. But one major problem would be providing food for the herd. So the tribe would need to grow or collect and transport sufficient browse for the herd, or the tribe would need to become nomadic herders. That might be problem enough to end any such attempt. The additional problems inherent in simply keeping the zebra herd confined or under constant control with limited manpower and subject to apex zebra predators including lions, leopards, and hyenas seem virtually insurmountable to me. At least, not worth the effort when wild zebras are seasonally available for hunting.

Add a requirement that individual zebras be identified and rated for tractability (or other desirable trait). Now only certain individuals should be bred to certain other individuals. And their offspring must be kept separate from the zebras that are necessarily butchered for meat, and themselves propagated in turn. And this effort has to be maintained over a period of at least decades if not longer. Never interrupted by a need to eat the “special ones” during a famine. No loss of the herd to wildfire, drought, or predator attack. No war with another tribe, or any of the countless other possible events that would set the entire breeding program back to square one.

Given the difficulties inherent in having “a stable society with a surplus of resources and an ability to sacrifice short term benefit to long term goals”, the conditions necessary for a long term breeding program might never have existed.