Above Image: Plains zebra and wildebeest running Image Credit: renatela Source: flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 GenericLicense.
Zebras [zee-bruh; British also zeb-ruh] are hoofed mammals that belong to the genus Equus along with the horse and donkey. There are 3 distinct species of zebra that are broken down even further into subspecies, the plains zebra (Equus Burchelli), Grevy’s zebra (Equus Grevi) and the mountain zebra (Equus Zebra). The plains zebra is the most common and is the only one that gathers in massive herds to migrate across the desert in search of water during the dry season.
Below is a picture of a mountain zebra, notice the extra skin on the neck.
Above Image: Hartmann’s mountain zebra in a private reserve west of Etosha National Park Image Credit: Moongateclimber Source: wikimedia commons; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.
Next is a picture of Grevy’s zebras, notice how their stripes are thinner and closer together.
Above Image: Grevy’s zebras in Samburu National Reserve Image Credit: Dan Lundberg Source: flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.
Below is a picture of plains zebras.
Zebras look a lot like horses and donkeys, but they’re covered in a magnificent black and white striped coat that dazzles the eye when seen at a distance. Each zebra gets a unique coat, and each coat can vary quite a bit even in the same species. I’ve even seen a zebra with a small-ish black dot on its side that was surrounded by stripes. My favorite, though, is when they have skinny light brown stripes between the thicker black stripes, it makes for a particularly dazzling effect in the distance.
Their manes are cool, too, because they look like they’ve been glued and flat-ironed to make some crazy-awesome mohawks.
The plains Zebra inhabits much of Africa below the Sahara desert. During the dry season, they will migrate in herds upwards of 100,000 members in search of the diminishing water supplies, and at the end of the dry season, they all travel back to their homes for the wet season. They are very fast, too, reaching speeds up to 40mph, which can make their stampedes a dangerously awesome occurrence.
Zebras are very social creatures and they form close and lasting bonds with each other. The typical family unit is a small group of mares and their foals, called a harem, that is led by a stallion. The mares in a harem form close relationships with one another and adhere to a strict hierarchy that is separate from the stallions. Once a male foal is old enough (typically between 1-4 years) he will leave the harem and join a close group of bachelor-stallions until they each find a harem of their own to lead, and they maintain the close relationship with their fellow stallions. Female foals are in a closer relationship with their mothers for their entire lives, but a male foal will be closer to the father once he reaches bachelor age. Like horses, Zebras are able to run around and play in as little as an hour after its birth, and they learn to feed themselves rapidly. The mares will keep their foals close by them and away from all of the other zebras until the foal learns to recognize its mother’s bray, scent and appearance.
The bray of the plains zebra is definitely one of the strangest animal sounds I’ve heard. It sounds more like something that would come from a bird rather than a zebra. It’s really cute, though, check out this video:
Zebras are prey mainly for lions and hyenas, but can also fall prey to hunting dogs, leopards and cheetah. Humans also play a large role in their demise, causing them to become endangered and even causing one subspecies to become extinct all together. Thankfully, there are people out there who are trying to help and they offer ways for us to help, too.