The zebra, Botswana's lovable and graceful national animal

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Most countries have national animals and for Botswana it is the graceful zebra with its breathtaking distinctive black and white stripes.

Zebras are some of the most beautiful animals found in these parts of the world and that coupled with the fact that they are relatively harmless has endeared them to many Batswana; no wonder there is no animal that has a distinct coat like the zebra.

A Tswana folktale tells the story of how the animal got its distinctive marks. Legend has it that one day, the Creator called all animals that wore drab coats to have their hides decorated.

As there were many animals in the queue waiting their turn, the zebra got agitated and kicked the paint container that the Creator was holding and the paint splashed on his back and that led to him having the stripes.

There are three surviving species of these African equids, namely the plains zebra, the Grevy's Zebra and the Mountain Zebra. According to Wikipedia, the word zebra is derived from the Old Portuguese word Zevra, which means wild ass or donkey.

Unlike their close relatives, horses and donkeys, zebra have never been truly domesticated although some individuals have successfully tamed them.

Interestingly, Wikipedia shows a picture of one zoological collector, Lord Rothschild with his famed zebra carriage, which he frequently drove through London. It also shows a picture of a tamed zebra being ridden in East Africa.

In Botswana, zebras have hardly been domesticated and maybe this is partly because the animal is revered in the country as mentioned before. It is therefore safe to say that the animal has never been domesticated on a large scale and mysteriously so because people have broken (or tamed) them easily in the past.

According to Wikipedia, although zebras are generally slower than horses, they have great stamina that helps them outpace predators when chased. A zebra zigzags from side to side making it very difficult for a predator to catch it.

They are known to kick or bite when cornered by a predator.

The road markings known as the zebra crossing has been named after the animal's black and white strips.

When Botswana became independent in 1966, the black and white stripes on the new flag were primarily influenced by the zebra and the stripes were meant to represent the harmony between people of different races and ethnicities in Botswana.

This was relevant at the time because back then in neighbouring South Africa, people were divided according to their races and ethnicity, a thing that the founding fathers of this nation did not want to happen in this country.

Interestingly, the first president of Botswana, Sir Seretse Khama had earlier married a white woman who became the country's first lady, Ruth Khama. It is obvious that Seretse having been persecuted for marrying a white woman in the late 1940s wanted to teach the young nation and its neighbours that blacks and whites could live in harmony by adopting the black and white strips of the zebra for the flag. Two zebras also adorn the Botswana coat of arms, which shows that the animal is a symbol of national unity.

The Botswana national team is known as the Zebras and like the animal the boys are loved by hordes of fans.
Again like the zebras of the wild, the team has become known for their dangerous kicks as they are currently leading Group K in the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifiers.

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