Laura Bliss on the half-remembered, half-stripped Quagga

The Last Menagerie is proud to publish the second installment of the Guest Writer Project: A Misunderstanding of Stripes by Laura Bliss. Laura is a writer and journalist living in Washington, D.C. Her work has appeared onThe Atlantic, CityLab, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and beyond.

In the coming months, The Last Menagerie will feature a different writer, historian, or artist each month contributing a short piece of writing about one of the animals from the first plate series. Past contributions from LJ Moore on The Passenger Pigeon and future contributors include: Amy Blount Lay on The Dodo and Erin Chapman on The Pyrenean Ibex and The Wooly Mammoth


From Rev JG Wood’s “Illustrated Natural History” (1853, 1874): The QUAGGA looks at first sight like a cross between the common wild ass and the zebra, as it only partially possesses the characteristic zebra-stripes, and is decorated merely upon the hind and fore-parts of the body. The streaks are not so deep as they are in the zebra, and the remainder of the body is brown, with the exception of the abdomen, legs, and part of the tail, which are whitish-grey. The Quagga lives in large herds, and is much persecuted by the natives of Southern Africa, who pursue it for the sake of its skin and its flesh, both of which are in high estimation.

color quagga

The last captive Quagga died in Amsterdam on August 12, 1883. Only one Quagga was ever photographed alive circa 1870.