Cryptid Quagga?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 13th, 2006



An article in the Edmonton Journal, December 13, 2006, concerns an alleged quagga, a South Africa species with genetic links to zebras said to be extinct for over 100 years.

This specific equine has been missing for over two weeks from a farm located at Carrot Creek, a little way west of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

The animal seems rather unique:

The eight-year-old stallion, named Zebastian, is a brown zebra with black stripes, and its owner fears the animal’s unique looks will tempt area hunters who don’t know how special it is.


[Patricia] O’Neil bought Zebastian seven years ago at an auction near Innisfail, thinking he was a hybrid horse.

When Zebastian fathered a foal, O’Neil said she sent his DNA for testing at the University of Phoenix. She said Zebastian has the DNA markers of a quagga zebra, a species that has been extinct for more than 100 years.

“I am sure the zoo industry and zoologists will be very interested in that finding,” Valley Zoo operations supervisor Dean Treichel said.

Treichel has been working with the zoo for 28 years and says the only Alberta zebras he is aware of live in the province’s two zoos. He is skeptical.

Update: Photographs of Zebastian have been forwarded to us. He does not exhibit the classic Quagga striping, but that of a zebra-horse hybrid.

Zebastian the Quagga Zebra

Click on image for full-size version

Zebastian the Quagga Zebra

Click on image for full-size version

The search is still on for Zebastian.

Thanks to Red Grossinger in Whitehorse, Yukon, for passing this along.


The public domain images shown are an old photograph and a print of the known (extinct) quagga from Africa, below the new ones sent in of Zebastian.

Loren Coleman About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading living cryptozoologist. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013. He returned as an infrequent contributor beginning Halloween week of 2015. Coleman is the founder in 2003, and current director of the International Cryptozoology Museum in Portland, Maine.

23 Responses to “Cryptid Quagga?”

  1. cryptohunter responds:

    Interesting. Hope they find the little guy and he turns out to be a quagga.

  2. Equine Fan responds:

    Wow, now that would really be something if he really is part Quagga. I know there are some specialized breeding programs in the US and Africa where they are trying to bring back the Quagga or breed for its looks, though all they seem to get are mostly white Zebras with Stripes on the head, neck, and withers.

    I wish there were a photo we could see of this guy. I bet he closly resembles the looks of a Zdonk, or even a Zorse, which is why she was surprised he produced a foal and had him tested, as the hybrids are unable to reproduce like mules…

  3. Cryptonut responds:

    Hadn’t heard of the quagga before, although I have seen a lot of pics of cross bred species, like the Zorse which is what it reminded me of when I saw the first picture.

    It sounds like a story worth hearing more about, but the first question that comes to mind is how does a creature like that which was naturally from South Africa (and that is supposedly extinct) happen to be on a Ranch in Canada in the first place? Then the second is that if the owner had this thing on a farm, he must surely have some pictures of it that someone can evaluate.

    Maybe I’m optimistic, but I don’t think anyone would shoot that thing. It would be like seeing a bigfoot for the first time. I’ve never seen one in the flesh, but I imagine that looking at something like that would bring about all kinds of other thoughts first, and not just to shoot it for the sake of shooting it. The only thing I would shoot it with would be a camera.

    Ok, so if blurry photos show up of this creature will it be a quaggablob, a blurryquagga, or? 🙂

  4. Loren Coleman responds:

    Blobquagga, of course. 🙂

    Update…photos have been found. They are not blobquaggas, but the pictures clearly show the mane, leg coloring, and location of striping do not indicate a quagga. Time to look for comparative photos of zebra x horse, and other equine x zebra hybrids.

  5. Morgoth responds:

    So as soon as someone figures out that the animal is part cryptid it immediately dissapears and no one can find it. Is there a pattern here?

  6. Remobec responds:

    If nothing else, I bet the Quagga-restoration projects might be interested in his genes.

    It is mighty fishy though. He disapears and the world hears about him. Even if her house and all her records burned down, at least there should be some evidence out there. What happened to the DNA that was being tested? And what about the foal?

  7. Remobec responds:

    He does look most unusual. I’d say the quagga-restoration folk would definitely be interested in his genes.

    However, I think he’s a zebra-horse hybrid. I think I’ve heard that once in a blue moon a mule is fertile. Probably that’s the case here. He looks much more like zebra-horse hybrids than a quagga. The main difference, imo, is the white belly and legs. Quaggas have them and horse/zebra hybrids seem to lack it.

    I mean, really. What’s the likelihood that an animal that’s been claimed extinct for 100 years shows up in Canada? Just about zilch.

  8. Remobec responds:

    Sorry for the multiple messages, but after further research I must recant. I’ve found that there are no documented cases of fertile MALE mules. Only fertile FEMALE mules. I’ve run out of ideas. I leave it to the experts.

  9. Sunny responds:

    Cryptonut, as much as I would like to share your optimism, the reality just doesn’t line up.

    Most hunters are very conscious of bag limits and sportsmanship, and go out of their way to conserve the species so that there are more to hunt another day.

    There are, however, a fair number who subscribe to the idea of “if it moves, shoot it. If it doesn’t move, shoot it anyway.”

    That would be why so many hunters every year come home (well, the lucky ones, anyway) with a load of buckshot (or worse) in their person…even if they were wearing orange vests.

    Here’s hoping Zebastian finds his way home soon.

  10. cosmic monster responds:

    I haven’t been hunting in years, but we always knew what we were hunting for because you can’t kill it unless it’s in season and you’ve got a license to shoot it. We never shot at horses, mules, or cows because they don’t have horse, mule, and cow season. Also, most horses, mules, and cows have an owner and if it’s not mine I’m not going to shoot it out of fear of lawsuit.


  11. One Eyed Cat responds:

    After learning of the Quagga restoration effort, after discovering Quaggas are merely an offshoot of a zebra species, (Not remembering which right now) I would have to express surprise at one comming this far so fast. it takes time to establish a breed, which is really what Quaggas are, a breed of zebra. some things are coming through, but getting the ‘new’ quaggas to breed true is a ways off yet. We will see what this fellow is. I hope he gets home soon.

  12. Kelly responds:

    It’s a “Zorse” or a “hebra”. Doesn’t look like a Quagga to me…silly isn’t it.

  13. kittenz responds:

    The Quagga Project would not use an animal that is part horse. They use Burchell’s Zebras only. This is obviously a zebra-horse hybrid. They are not as uncommon as one might think. Often they are even fertile. Zebras can be crossed with donkeys as well.

    Some purebred horses also have faint zebra striping on the legs but never so much as this hybrid’s.

    The Quagga was a subspecies of the Burchell’s (Plains) Zebra, and its coloration is much more variable than that of other zebra species. From time to time individuals of Burchell’s Zebra are born that show more quagga-like features. The Quagga Project is attempting to use these more quagga-like zebras to re-establish the type. They are meeting with some success, although they have not yet produced a zebra that looks exactly like a Quagga.

    The question also remains whether a Burchell’s zebra that looks like a Quagga is indeed a Quagga. Hopefully when and if a truly quagga-like zebra is born, its DNA can be compared to that of museum specimens of Quagga to determine whether it really is a Quagga.

    Much more information is available on the Quagga Project website.

  14. raisinsofwrath responds:

    I wouldn’t be all that surprised to learn that this guy does in fact have an animal with some Quagga genetics in it. It would seem that the breeding of such an animal is not as far fetched as say a Mammoth for example.

    A very interesting situation to say the least and I hope he gets his animal back as there are hunters out there that shouldn’t own a gun let alone hunt animals with one.

  15. One Eyed Cat responds:

    Thank you kittenz, it has beeen awhile since I looked at The Quagga Project, but the timing still didn’t make sense for it to have progressed so far.

    I doubt DNA would totally match unless descendants of the exact animals that first produced a Qugga are the only animals used now. Most likely newer strains of zebra are being used. I would think based on that we have no idea what lines of Zebra went into the first Quaggas.

  16. mystery_man responds:

    That’s the one thing that gets me about the Quagga Project. The quagga was a unique subspecies, but what they are doing is breeding quagga- like zebras. So even if they get one that looks excactly like a the extinct quagga, does merely looking like one constitute a revival of the species? Would these look alikes then become a stand alone subspecies, to be classified once again as quagga or would they merely be a zebra with coloration resembling a Quagga and not a recreation of the original subspecies? I tend to think that merely looking like a Quagga does not a Quagga make.

  17. One Eyed Cat responds:

    mystery_man I think that depends on how well the animals do in wild conditions. If they survive long enough to breed on and breed true for the Qugga look, the answer may be very close to, if not truly, be yes. The first Quaggas came about without man’s help and had to survive and continue the look.

  18. mystery_man responds:

    Yeah, I see your point One Eyed Cat. But if I breed, say, a dog to look exactly like a wolf and it continues the “wolf look”, is that really a wolf? It’s still a common dog that just resembles a wolf. How far does just coloration and superficial appearance go towards being considered a revival of this species? There is more to the genetic code than mere appearance. I don’t know enough about the quagga to really make a firm stand on this, but it is my opinion that even if it survived in the wild and continued the look, it still would only be sort of an imposter. A zebra created by humans to look like a quagga.

  19. kittenz responds:

    I don’t think you can really compare what the Quagga project is attempting to do with selective breeding for a wolf-like dog. It’s sort of like apples and oranges.

    Quaggas were a naturally evolved subspecies of Burchell’s Zebra (or probably I should say Plains Zebra), while domestic dogs, even though they are thought to be primarily descended from wolves, are a man-made, hybrid species, with DNA having been introduced from many sources, including other canid species. Dogs have been selected for domestic behavioral traits for thousands of generations, and even dogs which are nearly indistinguishable from wolves in appearance are much different from wolves in behavior. I disagree with those who consider domestic dogs to be a subspecies of wolf. They are a separate species; of that I have no doubt at all.

    Subspecies are still members of the same species as the parent species in every way, with some small differences brought about by isolation of smaller populations within the whole, which allows some traits to become more pronounced or slightly different than other subspecies. But they still share basically the same gene pool.

    The zebras being selectively bred by the Quagga Project are unquestionably zebras. They are drawing on the same gene pool from which the original Quaggas originated. I agree that the quagga-like animal which will eventually be produced by the Quagga project will be slightly different, genetically, than the original Quagga population. But I think that it will be very close, since they are selecting entirely from within the original species.

    An interesting project which parallels the Quagga project in some ways is the “recreation” of the recently extinct Tarpan horse. “Primitive” domestic breeds of horse, known to have been descended from Tarpans, were selected and bred for Tarpan characteristics. Today an animal exists that is called a Tarpan, and they have all the characteristics that were attributed to Tarpans. They are identical to the extinct Tarpans in appearance and behavior. Whether they are actually Tarpans is largely a matter of opinion.

    My personal opinion is that the recreated animals should be referred to by a different name, no matter how closely they resemble the original extinct animal. The main reason I say this is that I do not feel it would be wise to become complacent about extinction. If an extinct animal could ever be cloned, as a true clone with 100% of the genetic material coming from an extinct individual, I would consider that cloned animal to be a member of the original species. But when a species or subspecies is resurrected from selective breeding of hybrid animals, or animals of other subspecies, I think it should be designated as such. For instance, Modern Quagga as opposed to True Quagga.

  20. elizdelphi responds:

    As others have said, quaggas were simply a color pattern variant of Plains Zebra (not necessarily even a subspecies). Zebastian is definitely a zorse and not a zebra, though it’s probable he was sired by a Plains Zebra since they are the most common species used to produce zorse offspring out of horse or pony mares. So, there would be nothing mysterious about him carrying a genetic marker carried by quaggas.

  21. mystery_man responds:

    Yes, Kittenz, I agree that wolf and dog was perhaps a bad comparison. The more I thought about it, the more I wish I didn’t post that. It was just a rhetorical question. But you do see the point I’m trying to make. These quaggas that they are breeding would not be an exact genetic match. That was the gist of what I was trying to say. Nature created the quagga subspecies and it earned its right to be genetically distinct without human intervention. Unless humans create a clone from the original DNA, then no amount of tinkering with selective breeding is going to bring the subspecies back. It’s a matter of opinion and that is my opinion. So I definately think that these new quagga should be labelled as such, not taking on the exact scientific ame of their extinct brethren.

  22. Bob Michaels responds:

    Take a look at The Extinction Website.

  23. NewSpecies responds:

    I’ve seen horses with similar markings. Just not as far reaching. they usually are confined to the legs, the tail has a characteristic low set, and not very heavy bodied as quarter horses. Experts say there were no horses in the Americas at the time of its “Discovery”, but it’s a vain and pretentious contention. Archeological records are few and far between. That’s what makes them exciting. In a preditor environment of the plains populated by large plains wolves and plains grizzlys, cougar, etc., as well as hungry American Indians (who are patronizinly described as ‘wandering homeless people’ without using the actual words) It seems unlikely that one spanish horse could populate the plains by itself into the millions. Horses are composed of up to six sub species, of which the modern horse is a mixture of, similar to the domesticated dog. One example, the European forest horse, does not fit the assumed identity that one learns as a child. It was very tall, not necessarily heavily muscled, solitary and shy, somewhat like a moose. They didn’t travel in huge herds.
    Individuals trying to preserve mustang lines have been disregarded for decades as crackpots and overly sentimental nuts. The Grullo markings have been associated with the identification of assumed Mustangs by these people. The pictures of this horse look like grullo marking. Maybe it’s a throwback. When small populations of animals have been isolated for very long periods, the narrow genetic variation tends to weaken the animal. If fresh genetic information is introduced they tend to thrive (hardening of the existing traits infused with more genetic resources) and could explain a population bloom such as the supposed feral horse population of the plains. Since the horse originated in the Americas, it wouldn’t be surprising to me that they could have genetic similaritys to the surviving species of the world. The camel originated here, the elephant, the horse, the lion and others. Like other symbols, the horse, even the Morgan Horse breed, were icons of America. At the end of WWI the Morgan breed virtually disappeared. In Europe they were slaughtered for food. In America, they probably were also, the breeding stables for the military were shut down and they couldn’t be supported. People were hungry. Everything became mechanized. The Morgan horse was destroyed by lack of interest. The modern breed is mostly some type of walker horse, infused with a few typie grade horses that were left over. Because of political prejudice about the condition of our countrys origin, our cultural heritage has been squandered. Look at the bison, then look at the African Gnu. Look at the Wolverine, then look at the African Honey Badger. There are many examples

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