Tag: Zebras

1st October 2007 / / Books
Noble—but undomesticable?

How do you domesticate a zebra? You can’t, or at least that’s the justification put forward by Jared Diamond in his Guns, Germs and Steel for why these wild beasts were never used as draught animals or cavalry in sub-Saharan Africa. Much of what Diamond writes has a logical ring to it, and whilst the evidence is sparse and in places contradictory, his conclusions fit the necessarily teleological approach. Others have accused him of too much geographical determinism, and perhaps they have a point, but the one thing which struck me as being peculiarly out of place in Diamond’s writing was his treatment of Africa’s wild animals as being unsuitable for domestication. He argued that it was only by chance that Eurasia benefited from having suitable species such as goats, sheep, cattle and horses, and that the native varieties of these animals in sub-Saharan Africa were inherintly unsuitable.