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Zebra Facts

Size Up to 4.5 ft (1.4 m) (shoulder height)
Speed Up to 25 mph (40 km/h)
Weight Up to 881 lb (400 kg)
Lifespan 20-30 years
Food Plants
Predators Lions, hyenas, leopards
Habitat Tropical Africa
Order Odd-toed ungulates
Family Horses
Scientific name Equus grevyi, zebra and quagga
Characteristics Striped horse

Main Characteristics

Zebras belong to the family of horses. There are three different types: Grevy’s zebra, the mountain zebra and the common zebra. Mountain zebras are closely related to the African wild ass, common zebras and Grevy’s zebra to the Asian wild ass.

Zebra Photo: PHOTOCREO Michal Bednarek/Shutterstock

Anatomy and Appearance

Black With White Stripes or White With Black Stripes?

This question was long unanswered. Most zebras have black stripes ending at the belly and near the inner side of their legs. All other parts of the coat are white. Yet, some zebras are mainly black with white stripes. By the way, the skin under their coat is black.


Why Do They Have Striped Fur?

It might seem that the zebra was not very clever when choosing its colors. The combination of black and white can be easily perceived even at long distances.

Nevertheless, the stripes serve the zebra as a camouflage. When herds of zebras are standing together and the air is hazy from the heat, the silhouettes of the individual animals are no longer clearly recognizable. This confuses the (colorblind) lion: "Where is the head, where is the leg, how many animals are there? Damn!"

Another theory on the flashy stripes says that they might protect the animal from tsetse flies. The infamous transmitters of sleeping sickness have enormous problems to perceive a zebra with their compound eyes. Lucky zebra! Scientists have now discovered that the strips also help to make the heat more bearable.

Zebra Photo: Natalie Shuttleworth/Shutterstock

Every Stripe Pattern Is Unique

Do zebras all look the same? No! Even if you might not perceive it at first sight: Each zebra has an individual striping pattern. The stripes and the smell help them to recognize their friends.


Each Zebra Species Has Different Stripe Patterns

Mountain zebra Broad
Grevy’s zebra Narrow
Plains zebra Stripes of varying width

Zebra Photo: MattiaATH/Shutterstock

The Zebra Is Related To:

Animals in the Same Biome:

Zebra Photo: matthieu Gallet/Shutterstock

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