Zebras: What You Should Know

Zebras are mammals that live in the southern part of Africa. They belong to the horse family. The zebras are a subgenus made up of three species. These are the Grevy’s zebra, the mountain zebra, and the plains zebra. They live quite differently.

Zebras mainly eat grass. They can also be pretty tough. They prefer open terrain with few trees. Their hooves can also cope with the hard and stony ground. But what they absolutely need on a regular basis is water.

Twins are extremely rare. The cub can stand up about an hour after birth. It then drinks milk from its mother and follows the herd.

Zebras can run about 30 to 40 kilometers per hour for a long time. In case of great danger, however, they can run at a speed of more than 60 kilometers per hour for a short time. Otherwise, zebras bravely defend themselves against their enemies, who kick them with their hooves. That’s why even their main enemy, the lion, is cautious. In general, the big cats are the most important enemies of the zebras. Man with their guns is also an important enemy. On the other hand, zebras are reproduced in many zoos to maintain their populations.

Another enemy is tiny and likes to nest in the zebra’s fur. They are insects and other animals. Zebras, therefore, groom each other’s fur by chewing on each other’s fur with their teeth. Birds called maggot choppers often sit on their backs. The name already says what they do: they chop maggots out of the zebra’s fur. The zebras like that and don’t fight back against these birds.

Why do zebras have stripes?

Zebras are known for their stripes. Depending on the species, there are thirty to eighty. They run up and down the back and all the way around the legs. Each zebra has its own stripe pattern. The zebra crossings we use to cross the street are named after that.

Researchers disagree on exactly why zebras have stripes. Nevertheless, they recognize their enemies in the landscape, above all lions, but also leopards, cheetahs, and hyenas. However, the strips offer protection against flies and horseflies. In the experiment, too, they ended up far less frequently on striped patterns. It is also important that the air above the black stripes heats up more than above the white stripes. This creates an airflow that cools the fur slightly.

Can you ride zebras?

Zebras are so used to the wild that they are almost impossible to tame. Very rarely does a human succeed in riding a zebra or harnessing it to a chariot. Because of this, zebras have never become pets. They defend themselves against enemies or unknown beings like humans with hoof kicks. Or they bite, for example, a person’s fingers. You can’t get close to the males in particular.

Because females are challenging to keep in captivity and males cannot be kept at all, they do not breed there either. So you can’t produce them and get used to them over the generations. At most, a male zebra can be crossed with another animal of the horse genus. Their offspring are then sterile. It is therefore not possible to continue breeding with these offspring.

Crosses between a zebra mare and another stallion are called zebroids. Two different ones are known: the zorse and the zest.

The Zorse is a cross between a zebra mare and a domestic horse stallion. The name came from “zebra” and the English “horse” for the horse. A zorse looks more like a domestic horse than a zebra.

A zeel is a cross between a zebra mare and a donkey stallion. That’s what happens sometimes in the wild. People have had success with it too.

How do Grevy’s zebras live?

Grevy’s zebras have the most stripes, up to eighty. It is also the largest zebra species: from head to bottom, the animals are about three meters long and up to 150 centimeters high at the shoulders. Males are slightly heavier than females and sometimes weigh over 400 kilograms.

Grevy’s zebras live in grasslands or savannas. Groups tend to be random when many animals feed in the same place. In these groups, however, no animal has the lead, and they quickly break up again. The males are mostly solitary. Some claim a territory of their own, and others roam. The females are more sociable and form tighter groups, especially when they have a foal with them. The gestation period lasts almost 14 months.

The Grevy’s zebras live in East Africa, especially in Ethiopia and Sudan. The population is estimated at only around two to three thousand animals. People hunt them for their fur and fear they will eat their pets’ food. Also, some of their living areas are so fragmented that they can no longer mix individual groups for reproduction and thus exchange their genes. You are vulnerable and protected.

How do mountain zebras live?

Mountain zebras have about 45 stripes, but the belly is light and without stripes. The animals are about two meters and twenty centimeters long from head to bottom and up to 140 centimeters high at the shoulders. The males reach up to 340 kilograms, the females a little less.

Mountain zebras live in rocky areas with steep slopes. They are actual semi-deserts. Their particularly hard hooves can withstand it well. The few plants there are enough for them as long as they find water. Above all, they eat hard grasses. They live in small herds. This includes a stallion with some mares and their young animals. An old stallion will be chased away by a younger one over time. The gestation period is about a year.

The mountain zebras live in southern and eastern Africa, today only in the states of South Africa and Namibia. Of the one subspecies, the Cape mountain zebra, there are only about 1500 animals left. That’s tricky, but they’re not threatened with extinction. There are about 70,000 Hartmann’s mountain zebras.

How do plains zebras live?

Plains zebras only have about thirty stripes, which are very wide. There are six subspecies, each of which an expert can identify by the type of stripes. Plains zebras are a little longer from head to bottom but a little shorter than mountain zebras. Your legs are rather short. The weight is about the same as that of mountain zebras.

Plains zebras also live in areas that are high above sea level. They eat a wide variety of grasses. They live in small herds like mountain zebras. There are also groups of young stallions. Each of them will later try to drive an old stallion out of his herd. The gestation period is 12 to 13 months.

Plains zebras are distributed across many countries from Ethiopia to South Africa. Their population is estimated at around 660,000 animals. Some subspecies are not threatened, but others are critically endangered. The quagga, one of these subspecies, is already extinct.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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