The man, from Vienna, appealed to the Austrian Constitutional Court when a lower court rejected his proposed name change.
The man's grandfather changed his surname from “Zebra” in the 1950s. “Zebra” had been the family name for centuries, so reverting to it was quite legal, the Constitutional Court ruled.
However in August, the lower court had argued that “Zebra” was a non-Austrian invented name. A judge said “Zebra” could only refer to “a type of horse living in the African savannah”. Austrian law stipulates that a name can only be changed if the requested name is not “ridiculous, offensive, or a word which is not a known name in Austria”.
Some other animal names would have been acceptable, as they already existed in Austrian official records, he argued. He gave as examples the family names “Fuchs” (meaning fox), “Biber” (beaver) and “Strauss” (ostrich).
The last family member with the name “Zebra” died in 1991 – a great-uncle of the plaintiff. The plaintiff's current name was not disclosed.
The Constitutional Court judgement says the “Zebra” case was considered by 12 court lawyers and vice-president Brigitte Bierlein.