The Mysterious, Free-Roaming Zebras of Hearst Castle

It’s a perfect California day: bright sunshine, a light breeze, warm enough to drive with the windows down. As you cruise up the highway admiring the big, open fields and ponder the vastness of the universe, you glance out the window and notice a handful of zebras munching some grass just in the distance.
When people think California they don’t usually think of Zebras.
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California is widely recognized for its perfect weather, amazing beaches, Hollywood, and…wild zebras?

Sure, Cali is known for its “anything is possible reputation”, but we didn’t think that meant free-range zebras.

Zebras aren’t native to the Americas

However, as wonky as this statement sounds, many animal enthusiasts from all over the globe take a stop along California’s Highway I to admire the exotic beauty of these fascinating animals. What’s interesting about these zebras is that they are not controlled, confined, or monitored by anyone. Sound fishy? Quite the contrary.

It should be noted that Zebras aren’t native to the Americas. In fact, a vast majority of the zebra species, if not all, are found in eastern and southern Africa. So, how did a group of remote animals settle in an area almost 9,000 miles away?

Family of Zebra at Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument. Image: BMilne / CC-BY-SA 4.0

The answer lies in the mighty dollar. With a pocket full of cash and seemingly good credit, anything is possible.

The Man Behind the Stripes

This mentality was the norm for wealthy publisher William Randolph Hearst.
The Man Behind the Stripes

Founding one of the most lucrative publishing companies of the 21st century, Hearst was no stranger to the world of money.

In fact, his father was a multimillionaire who stumbled upon a hefty amount of gold during the Gold Rush. Movie buffs may even recognize Hearst as the inspiration behind the cult-classic Citizen Kane.