How much do you know about these black and white beauties?
Fast zebra facts
Family name: Equidae
IUCN status: Plains zebra: Least Concern. Grevy’s zebra: Endangered. Mountain zebra: Vulnerable
Lifespan (in wild): 25 years
Weight: 200-450 kg
Body length: 2.2-2.5m
Top speed: 65km/h
1) Our planet is home to three different species of zebra, the plains zebra, Grevy’s zebra and mountain zebra, all three species are native to Africa.
2) The most common species is the plains zebra, which roams grasslands and woodland of eastern and southern Africa. The Grevy’s zebra can be found in dry, semi-desert areas of Kenya and Ethiopia, and the mountain zebra lives in mountainous and hilly habitats in Namibia, Angola and South Africa.
3) Closely related to horses, zebras have thick bodies, thin legs, a tufted tail, and a long head and neck sporting a short mane. And their most famous feature? Their brilliant black-and-white striped coat, of course!
4) So why do zebras have stripes? Well, scientists aren’t entirely sure. Their stripes perhaps serve to dazzle and confuse predators and biting insects, or to control the animal’s body heat. Because each individual’s stripes are unique, their stripes may also have a social purpose, helping zebras to recognise one other.
5) These cool creatures are herbivores and spend most of their day eating grass, and sometimes leaves, shrubs twigs and bark, too. Their teeth are well adapted for grazing, with sharp incisors at the front of their mouth to bite the grass, and large molars at the back for crushing and grinding.
6) Zebras are constantly on the move for fresh grass to eat and water to drink. Super stealthy creatures, they’ll travel thousands of kilometres in search of green pastures where they can fill their bellies and quench their thirst!
7) Zebras are social animals and live together in large groups, called herds. As they migrate to new feeding grounds, ‘super herds’ may form consisting of thousands of individuals. They may team up with other grazers on their travels, too, such as antelope and wildebeest.
8) Within a herd, zebras tend to stay together in smaller family groups, made up of a dominant male, several females (called ‘mares’) and their young (called ‘foals’). When they are between one and three years old, males (or ‘stallions’) leave to join ‘bachelor herds’ (all-male groups), where they stay until they’re old enough and strong enough to compete for females.
9) As elegant and peaceful as they are, don’t be fooled – zebras can be aggressive animals, too! Stallions fight for females with piercing bites and powerful kicks that are strong enough to cause serious damage – and sometimes even kill!
10) Their fierce fighting skills and strong social bonds help to protect zebras from predators, which include lions, leopards, hyenas and cheetahs. When under threat, these awesome animals form a semi-circle facing the attacker, and prepare to strike if need be. And if one of the group is wounded or injured, other zebras will circle around and attempt to drive off the hungry attacker. All for one and one for all!