Zebra Riding, More on Odd Door Closings

Matt: I like horseback riding but I’ve been thinking that I’d like to try riding a zebra. They’re related to horses and they look like you could ride them. Actually I’d like to own a zebra. Would it be okay to keep it in a stable with horses? Why do we mostly see zebras in zoos? Does anybody have domesticated zebras that I could ride? I’d be willing to travel to find them. — Joseph T., El Cajon

Look about you, Joseph, for fenced-in, domesticated things. Cows, horses, dogs, donkeys, sheep.… Got zebras? Not so many. Hmmmm... Is there a reason your neighbor has no zebra tethered to his hitching post? Definitely. Zebras are rude, nasty, hyper, twitchy, bitey, kickey, unpredictable things. Good luck finding a mellow zebra. And a mellow, or mellow-ish, temperament is one necessity for an easy-to-domesticate animal. The zebra in the wild spends most of its time looking out for lions and hyenas, which would make anyone exhausted, nervous, and cranky. They have gold-medal hearing and vision, which feeds their twitchy tendencies. All in all, zebras are a handful to deal with. They’re said to cause more injuries to zookeepers than any other animal. They love to bite, and once they chomp, they hang on. An irked zebra will attack another animal and will probably kick it silly. Zebras may look like strong, handsome, loveable beasts who’ve had an unfortunate run-in with one of those home-decoration TV shows, but t’ain’t so.

That’s not to say an isolated zebra or five hasn’t been tamed enough to be ridden by a select handler. (If you’re not the select handler, forget it.) But they don’t take saddles well because they’re not constructed like horses. Zebras have been cross-bred with horses, donkeys, and others of the Equus persuasion. If you look hard enough you can find a ranch selling a zorse or a zonkey. But these resulting offspring seem to still have most of a zebra’s evil ways. No one has selectively bred enough generations of laid-back zebras to create a domesticatable animal.

But don’t think I’m picking on your friend the zebra. How many animals out of a whole world full of animals have been domesticated? (That’s domesticated, not tamed individuals.) Hardly any. If zebras are too hyper, then bears are too aggressive, koalas picky eaters, elephants grow too slowly, cheetahs don’t breed in captivity, deer are too susceptible to stress, other animals are hard to enclose or don’t live in a group with a social hierarchy that allows man to become the pack leader. So, Joseph, maybe you have to take a tip from TJ. Paint your donkey and take off down the street.

More Ideas Come In the Door

If Al Whitworth thought his house was the only one with spooky doors, read on.

In the May 28 edition of the Reader, Al Whitworth of Chula Vista wanted to know why his doors come back open in the winter time. It’s because the air trapped in the house is pushing the door back open. From December to February is the most logical time of year for your windows and doors to be shut all the time during cooler weather. When that happens the air in the house has trouble escaping so when you try to close a door, the air in the house pushes against it and the door comes back open. In the summertime when the windows are left open, the air in the house can escape and the door closes with no trouble. — Chuck Olds, San Diego

My Dear Matthew: In reference to your column’s answer as to why the door swings different directions seasonally, you’re right, it’s related to humidity, but not in the wood. Rather, it’s moisture in the ground. During the winter, water is stored as if in a sponge and expands slightly, thereby pushing the foundation of the home up. When the ground dries out in summer, the house sinks on that end slightly. When I lived in the Bay Area, I had a similar experience, only in my case my door wouldn’t shut completely each summer because the house had twisted. When the winter rains came, the situation corrected itself. — Lyon, via e-mail

Regarding Al Whitworth’s seasonal door openings, is his house on expansive soil? Most San Diego rain falls in December through February. Rain-soaked soil may expand significantly. If his door hinges are well oiled and pretty close to plumb the rest of the year, his foundation may be tilting by the expanding soil — just enough to give gravity a shot at those doors. The direction of door movement would depend on the orientation of the tilt; some might open, but others might close, depending on which direction is “downhill.” — Armchair engineer, via e-mail

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