The quagga was a southern species of the plains zebra native to South Africa, now extinct. The quagga was colored dark brown with zebra-like white stripes only on its head and neck. The name "quagga" came from the language of the indigenous "Hottentot" people, who named the animal the "quahah" in imitation of its call.

The quaggas were known to be fiercely territorial. In the early days of South Africa, Boer farmers kept quagga stallions to guard their livestock at night, because the quaggas would not only raise the alarm but would viciously attack any intruder - man or beast. In England in the 1830s there was a fashion for Quaggas as harness animals and very wealthy Londoners could be seen around town in carriages drawn by the exotic beasts. As fierce as they were, the Quaggas were the only zebras that could be tamed enough to pull carriages with any high rate of success, although they were gelded to be made easier to handle.

Once roaming the grassy plains of South Africa in huge herds, the quagga became extinct in the late 19th century due to massive over-hunting for their meat and leather by South African farmers. The quagga were also viewed as competitors with livestock for open grazing land and were consequently often shot on sight. The last wild quaggas are thought to have been captured in 1870. A small herd may have survived in a remote area south of the Vaal river until a severe drought in the late 1870s probably wiped them out.

The last captive quagga, a mare, died on August 12, 1883 in the Amsterdam Zoo, where she had lived since 1867. At first no one realized that the mare was the very last quagga, because of confusion caused by the indiscriminate usage of "quagga" to describe any zebra species.

Quag"ga (?), n. [Hottentot.] Zool.

A South African wild ass (Equus, ∨ Hippotigris, quagga). The upper parts are reddish brown, becoming paler behind and behind and beneath, with dark stripes on the face, neck, and fore part of the body.

<-- now extinct? -->


© Webster 1913.

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