Zebras - Want to know some Zebras fun facts? 

What exactly is the color of zebras: are they black or white? Are they horses? Why do they have those stripes? Where do they live?

Let's look at a few answers to the many questions about these African animals.

what color is a zebra?

So let's start with the most frequently asked question about zebras:

So why do zebras have stripes?

Nobody knows for sure why these African animals have stripes.

The purpose of the stripes has stimulated a good deal of discussion amongst wildlife enthusiasts.

Theories about Zebra stripes usually fall into a few broad categories. 

Disrupting predatory attack, reducing thermal load, having a social function, or avoiding a parasite attack. 

The theories that have received most credibility have focused on a possible motion dazzle confusion effect and the one that tsetse flies and other biting flies are less likely to land on black and white striped than on uniform surfaces.

Conceivably the stripes could act as camouflage.

Predators without color vision find them difficult to isolate when they are bunched up in groups.

Zebra interesting factsPredators find it difficult to isolate a single zebra when they are bunched up in groups

This theory is supported by the fact that you will very seldom spot lone zebras by themselves.

They are successfully hunted by lions, spotted hyenas, wild dogs, cheetah, and leopards.  This means that if there is a camouflage effect or a distortion of perspective it cannot be very effective.

The problem with these theories is that their behavior does not fit what would be expected from a camouflaged animal.

Firstly they prefer an open habitat with short grass making them conspicuous.

In addition to this, these African animals are quite noisy and active and they do not freeze in response to danger.

zebra facts

An important pointer to the function of their stripes is their effect not on predators but other zebras.

It has been suggested that the stripes serve as visual cues and identification of each other.

zebra stripesZebras can recognize each other by their stripes

With each striping pattern unique to each individual, they can recognize one another by their stripes.

Interestingly they seem to have some fascination with stripes.

There are accounts that even black and white stripes painted on a flat surface will attract them in groups.

Another common question about zebras are:

Are zebras a type of horse?

Zebras are sometimes called striped horses but they are not from the same species. 

is a zebra a horse?

They are both from the Equidae family and they are ungulates.

So if they are closely related to horses the next question is:

Can you ride a zebra?

Many years ago at the start of the 20th century there were a few early settlers to domesticate these African animals but it was never really successful. 

can you ride a zebra?Zebras are not easily tamed and quite aggressive when cornered

Theses wild animals were not easily tamed and were often quite aggressive when cornered.

It was also found that they have much weaker backs than horses and struggled to deal with heavy loads.

What habitat do they prefer?

The Burchell's zebra prefer open woodland, scrub, and grassland.

why do zebras have stripes?

They are very dependent on water and you will seldom see them more than 12 km from it. 

The Cape mountain species prefers the mountainous areas of the Eastern and Western Cape in Southern Africa.

Why do Zebras live in groups?

These African animals have a  society that is based on small family groups of harems and bachelor herds.

Stallions will fight viciously for control of the females.

A dominant stallion controls a herd of up to 6 mares and their foals.

The stallion's active shepherding of unattached females form these herds.

The stallion heads the hierarchy, herding his harem with his head held low, and his ears laid back.

interesting facts about zebras

Groups are bonded mutual grooming of the head, neck and shoulders by gently nibbling one another.

When herd stallions meet they approach within a few meters of each other.

They will stand with their heads up and then slowly approach with their heads down and ears cocked.

As they meet they will sniff nose-to-nose, rub their cheeks together, sniff each other's genitals and rub their heads on the partner's rump.

zebra fun facts

Males that do not hold breeding herds join up into bachelor herds.

Bachelor males either live alone or with groups of other bachelors until they are old enough to challenge a breeding stallion.

Young stallions can take over an established herd by defeating its controlling male.

This however will require him to enter into a violent contest of kicking and biting.

Stallions are unable to breed until they have gained control of a herd.

Why is there a dominance hierarchy amongst the zebra mares?

There is a strict pecking order among the herd’s mares.

This is established by fighting and maintained by threat gestures.

what color is a zebra?High-ranking zebra mares get priority access to dust baths

The privileges of being a high-ranking mare is that they get priority of access to dust baths, shade, and other limited resources.

The most common threat is a quick approach with the-

  • head held low,
  • the ears laid back,
  • the teeth bared and the
  • tail lashing.

Did you know - the zebra is an odd-toed ungulate?

They have hooves that feature an odd number of toes.

Like most ungulates, the eyes sit on the sides of its head.

This gives these African animals a wide field of view to be on their guard against predators. Ungulate refers to any mammal with hooves.

A hoof is an enlarged toenail. These hoofed animals walk on tiptoe.

What enemies do zebras have?

These African animals have excellent eyesight.

Because they are ungulates their eyes sits on the sides of its head.

zebras physical characteristicsZebras do not have color vision but their night sight is much better than ours

Lion and spotted hyenas are their most significant predators.

If attacked the herd will bunch flee together.

In groups, each individual has a smaller chance of falling prey.

The stripe camouflage may also assist during the defense by confusing the predators and causing them to hesitate.

The mare with the youngest foal being most likely runs first with the foals running alongside their mothers.

zebras picturesZebra looking in opposite directions have evolved as a safety mechanism

The main herd stallion may on occasion ward off the attackers with a defensive rearguard position.

From this position, it will kick and bite any predator that comes within range.

What predators prefer zebras in their diet?

In the Kruger National Park, they provide 16% of lion kills and in the Savuti 29%.

In the dry season of the Savuti, they provide 80% of spotted hyena kills.

What do zebras eat?

They prefer short, green grass but will also eat coarse tall forage.

zebra dietZebra can maintain good body condition on poor forage

They are unselective grazers.

This is because their efficient digestive system allows them to live on diets of lower nutritional quality.

They feed mainly on green grasses but will also eat-

  • shrubs,
  • herbs,
  • leaves and
  • tree bark.

When they feed you will notice that while some animals have their heads down grazing others will be standing up and looking around for predators.

How do zebras mate?

A herd stallion checks the reproductive condition of his mares by sniffing their urine.

The mares urinate more frequently as they come into heat and the male marks where they urinate.

This is probably done as a deterrent to competing suitors.

When a mare is on heat the mare presents to the stallion by standing with her hind legs splayed and her tail lifted to one side.

Mating takes only a few seconds and is repeated hourly for two days.

zebras mating processThe mother recognizes her foal by smell for the first few days, and then by its stripe pattern later

A mare with a newborn foal is very aggressive towards her herd companions.

A foal can run beside its mother within an hour of birth.

A mare is extremely possessive and protective towards her offspring and will spend a lot of time sniffing and licking them.

Each mare recognizes her foal by smell for the first few days, and then by sight by its stripe pattern.

cute zebra pictures

Foals eat grass after only three days but it is 11 months before they are weaned.

Until they are about three and a half months old foals eat portions of the adult's dung to pick up the bacteria they need to digest their food.

As always, it is your turn now

Please share your feedback, favorite zebra facts and observations via the comments below.

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