Why are There Zebras at Thailand Temples and Spirit Houses?


One of the things that’s fascinated me about Thailand since I moved here is the prevalence of zebras at Thai temples and spirit houses. Now, if you know anything about Thailand, you know a real zebra has probably never set foot in the country, not unless it came with a circus or is the resident of a Thai zoo. That’s why it’s so odd, at many Thai temples and spirit houses, to see herds of zebras.

Now obviously there’s some significance to the zebras but, of the more than 100 Thais I’ve asked about them, not one of them could tell me what it was.

Then I read one day in a local newspaper that the zebras at Thai temples and spirit houses came about as a result of zebra crossings. Figuring a zebra crossing was a place of safety (well, not in Thailand but that’s another story), Thais decided to put statues of zebras at spirit houses and temples to offer the same level of safety to those who prayed at them.

Like everything else in Thailand, this could or could not be true but it is a lovely story and the zebras themselves are actually quite lovely and endlessly fascinating. Particularly when, every day at the spirit house at the end of my street, Thais from all walks of life come to leave them, and the spirit that lives there, food and bottles of fizzy pop.