Research on zebra persons and characters

Watercolor of an zebra
Zebra in watercolor

What animal are you?

I’ve heard people talk about themselves as lions, eagles, bears, bulls… and a lot of other animals but, so far, I still wait to hear someone proudly proclaim: “I am a Zebra”, and I wonder if that is what the whole stripe trick is all about.

Animals as symbols through history

One of the many ways we like to connect to nature, is through metaphors or symbols. In the old days the Shamans could somehow transform or connect to animals. And the ironclad knights were not ready for battle, without a strategically positioned painting of a lion, dragon or fierce looking eagle, to make the final touch to the appearance. Maybe there was a beautifully, but slightly odd striped Sir Zebra riding along with King Richard Lionheart, but history must have forgotten about him.

Later on we actually tried to use zebras as the horses, they look so much like,  (apart from the stripes), but all attempts failed as the zebras have a more unpredictable nature and a tendency to panic under stress. (according to Wikipedia)

Talking about animals as symbols today

Today we still connect with animals as symbols all the time: we go to see the “The Bulls” fight “The Dolphins”, put “snowleopards” in our computers and drive a Jaguar, if lucky enough… but have you ever heard about someone going to watch a match between The Giants and The Zebras? Or someone yelling “go Zebras!” on a sports field?

How the zebra person is characterised today

Zebras are more a bit off, not to be counted on, doing things like Marty, the Zebra in the Madagascar animationfilm, that starts the whole story, when Marty decide he wants to go out and check out town outside the Central Park Zoo, where he has spend his whole life…

I just did a fast search, and one of the first articles about seeing people as zebras was called “five ways to better hunt the zebras in your network” (Robert Lemos): where malware researcher Chris Larsen is talking about risky behavior on the internet and is quoted:

“Zebras are the employees, and their computers, who are doing something odd. Defenders are right to want to protect the zebras in their networks, but defenders should occasionally “radio tag” and follow their zebras to see where they go”

So “zebra people”, are seen as those doing something odd… like Marty and the employees surfing out instead of working on their computer screens.

I wonder if the Zebras with help of evolution, somehow figured out that odd was a good strategy, as most animal perception tend to skip impressions that comes in confusing odd stripes. both because the stripes repeat the vertical lines and shadows around the animal, but also because zebras can magically turn themselves into something called”motion dazzle” when they move, so instead of zebras there is suddenly just a confusing large mass of flickering stripes..

So if you were a lion, scanning the horizon for prey, for the zebra, having stripes is a good thing, because it somehow make you, the lion, skip that part, as slightly incomprehensible.  Wildebeest means good meat (apart from the horns).  Stripes means: let’s do that odd part later.


Just wondering here, but maybe that is why so few of us consider ourselves zebras, and only dress up like them, if we are into motion dazzle.  We like to be seen as reliable, like lions, scanning the horizon for things we can easily frame, understand and hunt down. And when the talk is about people as zebras, at least, from my research here, it often show a picture of an odd, slightly unreliable, but well-meaning insider, that tend to slip out of that frame.

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