Zebra

Each zebra has a distinctive individual patterning on its body. This is believed to allow herd members to recognize each other from some distance away. The stripes make these hoofed mammals blend in to the natural patterns of light and shade in their habitat, making it more difficult for a predator to keep track of its quarry during a chase.

ANIMAL FACTS

Zebras usually live in small family groups headed by dominant stallions, which lead groups of one to six mares with their young. Social by nature, zebras are seen in small groups, comprising a stallion with several mares and their foals. Young males, however, live in temporary herds, splitting away as they mature to form their own harems by taking young mares from other groups. Each adult herd also has a dominant mare. It is also not uncommon for zebras to associate with other creatures of the plains, such as wildebeest and ostriches. This can help them detect predators more effectively.

The common or Burchett's zebra has the broadest stripes of the three zebra species, and its stripes usually join at the belly.

When young male zebras reach maturity, they leave their family groups and form groups of bachelor males, while females stay behind. Males fight amongst each other for access to females, circling and trying to kick or bite one another. Within a group, zebras can be affectionate, and may spend a lot of time grooming one another. Several families may form large herds, but they can still recognize each other by sight, sound and scent.

Until the foal learns to recognize its mother - in 3 or 4 days - she drives other animals away. It suckles for about 6 months and is independent at about a year.

VITAL STATISTICS

Distribution: Eastern Africa, from parts of Sudan and Ethiopia southwards via Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana and south as far as northern South Africa.

Habitat: Grassland and open woodland.

Weight: Around 350 kg (770 lb); males are larger.

Length: 2.5 m (8.2 ft); up to 140 cm (55 in) tall at the shoulder.

Maturity: 2 - 4 years.

Gestation Period: 12 - 13 months.

Breeding: 1; weaning occurs at about 12 months.

Food: Grazes on grasses and other low-growing plants on the plains.

Lifespan: 20 - 25 years; up to 40 in captivity.

Status: Lower risk.

Shadow striping

These markings are quite distinctive. The underlying body colour is not pure white.

Mane

The mane stands upright, with the striped patterning extending through the hair.

Leg stripes

The legs of this particular race are largely free from stripes.

Even the facial patterning of these zebras is individual.

DEFENDING THEMSELVES

Zebras may appear defenceless against predators such as hyenas, but a well-struck blow from their hind feet can be fatal.

Gallery of Zebra