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This is a rug made out of zebra hide, mounted on a backing of red and black fabric. The zebra hide does not include the entirety of the zebra’s tail, and does not include the zebra’s entire head either, stopping instead at the zebra’s neck. As well, the legs of the hide appear to be shortened slightly, overall giving the rug a more rounded shape. The wear and tear on this piece, along with the artificially rounded shape and backing, are indicative that the rug was used as a floor rug rather than as a pure display piece. Given that there is a significant amount of wear and tear on the fabric part of the rug, at least part of the wear on the hide itself would likely be from that same cause, making it difficult to determine what state the hide would have been in when it was initially acquired and made into a rug. This leads to some difficulty in determining the exact source of the rug. Judging by the pattern of stripes, this hide appears to come from a plains zebra (equus quagga), the most common and far-ranging species of zebra, and the most common choice for a zebra-hide rug. While trophy hunting in Africa was popular, zebras were not a particularly common choice for hunting, and when used as a target in trophy hunting, it was more common for them to be used for taxidermy (often as a taxidermy head) than for their hides. The most likely route for the owner to have acquired the rug, then, would have been through purchasing it from a company or individual who hunted zebras for their hides as a business. Sale price, and thus, buyers and sellers for hides usually is directly correlated to the level of damage to the hide, whether the damage comes scarring from wild animal attacks or from the hunting process. So determining what damage was present at the time of purchase and what damage was from use afterwards will still be necessary to fully understand the conditions the rug was purchased under. Though there is no one distinct era of popularity for zebra rugs, they were most common near the beginning of the 20th century. So though the rug was likely purchased decades earlier, even in 1986, when the rug was added to the collection, there were no international protections against the import and export of plains zebra products, so there is a highly reasonable chance that this rug was acquired legally. As of April 2020, it is possible to legally import similar plains zebra hide rugs into the United States from Tanzania or South Africa, the two countries where the commercial hunting and export of hides is legal. Therefore, while with some products of exotic animals, their legality is disputable, this likely has been a fully legal-to-own rug since it was created.Iris Jones, 5/28/2020

Collection Tier:
Tier 2

Plains Zebra Rug

Equus quagga
This zebra rug was probably purchased by the Johnstons during their safari hunting expedition in Zambia. 
August 1969
Current Location Status:
In Storage
Gift Of Dr. And Mrs. William L. Johnston