The ancient Greeks had built an empire that spanned from the Mediterranean region east to the borders of India and south into Northern Africa during its height in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C. The Greeks explored an even greater area. During these explorations of the African coast, they discovered an animal that they believed may have been a cross between striped tigers they had seen in Asia and horses, which had already been domesticated.

The Great Hippotigris

The Greeks called this animal the "hippotigris," from their words "hippo," meaning horse and "tigris," meaning tiger. When the Roman Empire supplanted the Greeks, they continued to refer to the animal as the hippotigris and incorporated them into their circuses. Today, most of us call the hippotigris a zebra.