Genetic Breakthrough May Let You Saddle up a Zebra


(Image courtesy Amazon.com)

When my wife was a little girl, she was a big fan of the 1984 film "Sheena: Queen of the Jungle," in which Tanya Roberts rides around Africa on a zebra. Naturally, she took this film as inspiration. I mean, seriously, how can you even look at this picture and not want to ride a zebra?

Of course, the sad truth of the matter is that you can't ride a zebra around like a horse. Nobody can. Tanya Roberts actually rode around on a freshly painted pony and even Roberts' "Beastmaster" costar Marc Singer had to make do with an actual horse -- and he was the freaking Beastmaster.

With this revelation, my wife had to move onto the more traditional trappings of equestrianism: riding lessons, a horse named Czar, cool pants and the ability to point out which actors don't know what they're doing in a saddle.

Some animals can be tamed, others can't. For the longest time, the reasons have been largely shrouded in mystery. But now, according to Science Daily, a team of scientists from Germany, Russia and Sweden have made what could be a huge breakthrough. The team claims to have discovered a set of genetic regions responsible for animal tameness. Aside from giving us a better understanding of why cats make better pets than wolverines, it may also lead to new breeding strategies to encourage tameness.

Factor in genetic tinkering and who knows? Perhaps little girls of the future will get to watch the latest reboot of "Sheena" and actually live out their zebra-riding fantasies.

Saddle up for more at HowStuffWorks.com: How Animal Domestication Works Are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Can you steal a few hairs from a racehorse and clone your own? Do horses with broken legs have to be shot? How do a zebra's stripes act as camouflage?


About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.