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Scientific classification
Trinomial name
Equus quagga quagga

The Quagga is an extinct zebra, which was once found in great numbers in South Africa's Cape Province and the southern part of the Orange Free State. It was distinguished from other zebras by having the usual vivid stripes on the front part of the body only. In the mid-section, the stripes faded and the dark, inter-stripe spaces became wider, and the hindquarters were a plain brown. The name comes from a Hottentot[?] word for zebra and is onomatopoeic, being said to resemble the Quagga's call.

The Quagga was originally classified as an individual species, Equus quagga, in 1788. Over the next 50 years or so, many other zebras were described by naturalists and explorers and because of the great variation in coat patterns (no two zebras are alike), taxonomists were left with a great number of described "species", and no easy way to tell which of these were true species, which were subspecies, and which were simply natural variants.

Long before this confusion was sorted out, the Quagga had been hunted to extinction for meat, hides, and to preserve feed for domesticated stock. The last wild Quagga was probably shot in the late 1870s, and the last specimen in captivity died on August 12, 1883 at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam. Because of the great confusion between different zebra species, particularly among the general public, the Quogga had become extinct before it was realised that it appeared to be a seperate species.

Recent genetic research, however, has demonstrated that the Quagga was in fact not a separate species at all, just a subspecies of the very variable Plains Zebra Equus burchelli, which suggests that it should be named Equus burcheli quagga. However, according to the rules of biological nomenclature, where there are two or more alternative names for a single species, the name first used takes priority. As the Quagga was described about 30 years earlier than the Plains Zebra, it appears that the correct terms are E. quagga quagga for the Quagga and E. quagga burchelli for the Plains Zebra.

After the very close relationship between the Quagga and surviving zebras was discovered, workers in South Africa began a project to recreate the Quagga by selective breeding from Plains Zebra stock, with the eventual aim of reintroducing them to the wild.


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