Scientific name: Genus – Equus
grevyi (Grevy’s)
zebra (mountain)
quagga (plains)
Conservation status: grevy and mountain endangered

Appearance

ZebraZebras belong to the family equidae which is the same family as horses. They have the same body shape as a horse however a zebras mane is short and erect and they also have tufts of hair at the end of their tails. They have great hearing and have larger rounder ears than horses do, and like horses they are able to turn their ears in almost any direction. Zebras have excellent eyesight with the eyes on the side of the head to give them a wide field of view. They also have a good sense of smell and taste. Zebras are one of the most easily recognisable animals due to their striped coats. The coat pattern of a zebra is unique to each animal just like fingerprints are to humans. Most people think that zebras are white with black stripes however evidence shows that they their background colour is actually black and they have white stripes. The stripes act as protection against predators because when they are grouped together it makes it hard for a predator to pick out one animal. The stripes also disrupt the outline of the body especially at dawn or dusk when the zebra is most active. The average height of a zebra is 1.3 to 1.5 metres (4.2 to 4.9 ft) and the average weight is 250 to 430 kgs (550 to 900 pounds) with the males being slightly bigger than the females.

Lifespan

The average lifespan of a zebra in the wild is 25 years.

Diet

Zebras are herbivores which means they only eat plants. They mostly eat a variety of grasses but they will also eat twigs, leaves, bark and shrubs. Zebras are grazers and will spend a lot of hours a day using their front teeth to clip the tips of the grass, then there back teeth will crush and grind the food. A zebras teeth keep growing all throughout their lives because their teeth are ground down by chewing on grasses so much. When the dry season comes they will travel long distances and feed on dry coarse grass if it is close to a watering hole.

Habitat

Zebras are found in eastern and southern Africa. They are found in a variety of habitats including woodlands, grasslands, thorny scrublands and savannas. The zebra population is decreasing due to habitat being lost to farming and also competition with livestock for water sources. Zebras are also hunted for their skins.

Reproduction

Mating for zebras can occur all year round and depends on the species. After a gestation period of 12-14 months depending on the species the female will give birth to one foal. The average size of the foal at birth is 25 to 40 kgs (55 to 88 pounds). The mother will nurse the foal for up to a year and for the first few days she will keep other zebras away from the foal until it recognises her by sight and smell. Just like horses zebra foals are able to stand up and walk and run shortly after they are born, they must be able to keep up with the herd when they are moving to food sources or when running from a predator. Zebra foals are born with brown and white stripes not black and white stripes.

Behaviour

Zebras just like horses are very social animals and live in herds that are made up of a stallion, several mares and their offspring. Young male zebras live in bachelor groups until they form their own herd or challenge another stallion. At some times of the year several groups may come together to form a herd with hundreds of zebras although the family groups will stay together within this larger herd. Zebras communicate with each other using facial expressions and sounds. The positioning of their ears, how wide their eyes are and whether their teeth are bared or mouth just open all mean something to the other zebras. They make braying and barking sounds to communicate with each other and to warn of danger approaching. Lions and hyenas are a threat to the zebras and if a zebra is attacked the others in the group will form a circle around the wounded animal to scare of the predator or to attack if the predator tries to attack the zebra again. Zebras maintain their strong family bonds with each other by grooming. They will nibble on each other with their teeth to pull out loose hairs and to give the other zebra a good scratch

Quick facts

Every zebra has its own unique stripe pattern just like human fingerprints.

Zebras have excellent eyesight and even have good night vision.

Zebras sleep standing up and only sleep when others are around to warn them if danger approaches.

They have vertical stripes on the head, neck and body with horizontal stripes on the rear and legs.