BY GABE LICHT
INDEPENDENCE, MN Individuals passing White Land Farm on Nelson Road in Independence might catch themselves doing a double take.
Is that a live zebra?
Is it a statue?
When it moves it proves it is a real zebra living amongst two miniature donkeys and a horse that has taken on a maternal role in its life.
Owners Nadine and Christophe Beck are accustomed to individuals stopping to look at the zebra, whose name is Flower.
“We have people who stop and have lunch and just watch the zebra,” Nadine Beck said.
“Some people come out here for the sole purpose just to see the zebra,” her son, Nico, added. “They bring their kids and they just drive in and sometimes ask questions or sometimes just stay in the car and be like, ‘Hi.’”
Nadine recalled the first time her family saw zebras in the United States.
“The story is that we drove along the coast in California,” she said. “Suddenly, we saw a herd of zebras. We were joking about it.”
A year later, in 2014, Christophe decided to buy a zebra from a breeder in California, who breeds zebras for zoos, parks, and others.
When she was 3 weeks old, Flower rode from California to Minnesota.
“She was so cute,” Nadine said.
Because she was so young, she had to be bottle-fed.
They also put her with a horse named Ramona to act as a mother figure for her.
“Since she was separated from her mom when she was such a young age, we gave her a horse to act as her mother,” Nico said. “They really have started to create a bond. They both kind of panic a bit when they’re separated. They’re both easing in to being OK with it. When someone takes Ramona for a ride, we leave Flower with the donkeys.”
Flower broke her leg when she was just 2 months old, requiring surgery. She recovered well, according to Nadine.
Is Flower domesticated?
“She’s as domesticated as a zebra can be,” Nico said.
“There’s a type of zebra you can ride, and she is not one of those,” Nadine added. “You can put a halter on her and lead her around. She follows you. She’s very different from a horse. She’s still very wild.”
Caring for a zebra is similar to caring for a horse. They both eat the same types of food, for example.
There’s one difference that makes caring for them easier.
“Luckily, her teeth and feet grow much, much slower than a horse,” Nadine said. “With a horse, you have to take care of their teeth once or twice a year and the feet every six weeks. With zebras, we’re lucky they don’t grow that fast because it’s an ordeal because the vet can’t really approach her, or the farrier can’t approach her, so it’s up to me.”
When asked if the family bought Flower just for fun, Nadine smiled and said, “Exactly.”