the quagga project


why did the quagga become extinct?

All members of the horse family feed predominantly on various grasses. Grasses in the Karoo and southern Free State where Quaggas occurred, are sparse. Wild grass eating animals such as the Quagga were perceived by the settlers as competitors for their sheep, goats and other livestock.

Photograph of a painting by Franz Roubal - 
'The extermination of the Quagga'
"The extermination of the Quagga" by Franz Roubal 1931. Oil on Canvas


Much has been written about the reasons for the extinction of the Quagga; it is generally attributed to the "ruthless hunting", and even "planned extermination" by colonists. It’s flesh is said to have been welcome food for the farm labourers, while the skin was used as "grainbags" and "leather". Great numbers of raw animal hides were exported during the 19th century for the leather industry. South Africa was known as a "hunters paradise". Books such as "Portraits of the Game and Wild Animals of Southern Africa" (Harris, 1840), provide evidence of large scale killing of wild animals, done not only by the settlers, but also by those privileged to journey to the Cape of Good Hope to satisfy their lust for hunting.

Such large scale hunting in South Africa during the 19th century, has drastically reduced the one time abundance of wild life, resulting in the disappearance of some species in certain areas. However, the perception that the Quagga was singled out for extermination does not seem to be supported by other historical evidence.

While excessive hunting played a major role in the disappearance of the Quagga, the confusion caused by indiscriminate, that is, general use of the term "Quagga", for any zebra, also contributed substantially. It was probably this confusion which prevented "last minute efforts" to save the Quagga from extinction. It was only realised years later that when the Quagga mare at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam died on the 12th August 1883, she was the last of her kind! The true Quagga vanished unnoticed.

The indiscriminate use of the term "Quagga", to apply to any zebra (especially in the Afrikaans language) remains an unfortunate generalisation which persists to this day.


Information about the Quagga, needed for school projects, will be found in this website. It is not possible to answer individual school project inquiries.

Information supplied by Quagga Project Committee, Copyright© 2006

Contact person  Craig Lardner (

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