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Zebra Facts

The zebra is in the same Equus family member as the horse and donkey and they are most notable for their brilliant white and black (or brown) patterned coats.

Zebra Facts for Kids

  • Zebras can sleep while standing up
  • They are herbivores and spend most of their time eating grass
  • In the wild, they can live up to 20 years and around 40 years in a zoo
  • Mostly found in Africa, they live in grasslands and savanna woodlands
  • A Group of Zebras is called a ‘Dazzle
  • They run in a zig-zag pattern when being chased by a predator

Types of Zebras

Zebra are beautiful and unique animals. There are three different zebra species. 

Plains Zebras

Plains Zebras

The Plains Zebra is the one you know best because it is the one you most commonly see. It has the black and white stripes that you commonly associate with the Zebra. They live on the grasslands of the eastern and southern parts of Africa. The Plains Zebra is the smaller of all the species. They are usually 3.5 to 5 feet tall and weigh close to 1000 pounds. 

The Plains Zebra stands out from the other species because of its unique stripe pattern. Their broad stripes are horizontal towards the back of their body and vertical at the front. They meet in the middle to form a triangle.

They have another stripe that runs down the middle of their back onto their tail. They have stripes on their bellies, too. While their stripes look similar, no two look alike because they each have a slightly different stripe pattern. 

Their keen eyesight and hearing help them stay away from their natural predators, like cheetahs, lions, and hyenas. They can run up to 35 miles per hour and kick really hard.

They alert each other with a sharp noise when there is a predator around. The male Zebra defend the female zebra and the young Zebra, including the zebra foal. They eat mostly grass, stems, and leaves. They spend most of their day grazing. They have back teeth that grow throughout their entire lives to help them eat.

They sleep standing up when they are in a large group. This helps them protect themselves. They live in a family called a harem. It consists of a stallion, which is the male, several mares (female), and children.

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A baby zebra is called a foal.

They usually live about 25 years in the wild. 

Mountain Zebras

Mountain Zebra

The Mountain Zebra is a native to southwest Africa, Namibia, and South-Western Angola. As their name may indicate, they live in an area that is mountainous and dry. They like slopes and may be found up to 2,000 meters above sea level. They may come down to lower areas during the winter. 

They have a flap of skin on their throat, which is their most distinct feature. It is most noticeable in males. They have stripes that are black and white on their entire bodies, except their stomachs, which remain white.

They have four slender hoofs with only one toe. Their ears are pointed and can be eight inches long. Their mane is short and stands straight on their necks. Their diet consists of roots, leaves, fruit, and bark. They dig in the ground for water. 

The Mountain Zebra has two species: the Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra and the Cape Mountain Zebra. The two breeds do not intermingle in any way. 

The Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra prefers to live in groups of 7 to 12 zebras. They enjoy climbing and are found in the steepest areas. The Hartmann’s Zebra is closer to four and a half feet tall with broad black stripes, white stripes, and an off-white underneath. 

The Cape Zebra is just about four feet tall with broad stripes. Their underneath is a bright white color. These are the stocker of the two.

Grevy’s Zebra

Grevy’s Zebra

The Gravy’s Zebra is better known as the Imperial Zebra. This is the largest and is found in Eastern Africa, specifically Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya. They live on grassy plains where there is an abundance of grass.

The Gravy’s Zebra is an endangered species because it is hunted for its skin. They have a long neck and head. Their mane is bristly and runs from the top of the head down to the top of the back. They average 8 to 10 feet tall.

They weigh about 770 to 990 pounds. They have stripes that are close together and narrow but get broader at the neck. Their stomach and tail do not have stripes and are white.

The stripes allow them to hide well and escape from predators. They resemble a mule and have long, narrow but large heads. Their ears are round and long. 

Their diet consists mostly of grass, but they do eat leaves, bark, and fruit on occasion. They eat a large amount of food and spend more than half of their time grazing. They require much less water than other types of zebras. 

What is a Group of Zebras Called?

A dazzle is what a group of Zebra is called. They may also be referred to as zeal or a herd. 

How Do Zebras Keep Cool?

Scientists believe there are three different components to how they stay cool. One part of this is that they sweat to help them stay cool. The hair on their stripes creates a protein that helps the sweat travel to the skin faster to help them cool down.

There is convective air movement between the stripes on a zebra that helps the sweat evaporate. They have the ability to raise the hair on the black stripes but not the white ones, which transfers the heat on the skin to the hair, which allows them to stay cool. 

Can Zebras See in Color?

It is widely believed that zebras can see in color because of their eyes on their side of their head. They have a wider field of vision, which means they can see items to the side of them in addition to what is in front of them. 

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

Zebra Camouflage

The stripes on zebras are mainly meant for camouflage, so they cannot be seen in the grass by predators.

Many of their predators are color-blind, so they cannot see the difference between the stripes and green grass.

The stripes can confuse predators because they are not able to see the outline of the zebra body.

What is the Lifespan of a Zebra?

A zebra usually lives around 25 years. They are mature between 3 to 6 years. 

How Fast Can a Zebra Run?

A zebra can run as fast as 40 miles per hour. 

Do Zebras Sleep Standing Up?

A zebra does sleep standing up because they are always on alert for danger and predators. They sleep any time they have the chance to.

They sleep only when they are in a large group in order to feel protected. 

Why are Zebras So Important?

They are important to the ecosystem. They graze on grass, leaves, plants, and stems as they move about. This grazing removes old growth and allows for new growth to take its place.

This helps to increase the quality of vegetation. They are a source of food for their predators. Predators help control the zebra population. Zebras consume bugs, which helps to control the population of insects. 

More Fun Facts

  • Scientists feel that the striping of the zebra acts as a camouflage, making it difficult to pick one animal out when they are all standing together. There may be an added advantage as the coloring may look unattractive to disease-carrying insects.
  • No two zebras will have the same stripes. They are as unique as human fingerprints.
  • The Grevy’s zebra is the largest, standing about 1.5 meters (5 ft.) tall from hoof to shoulder and weighing from 350-450 kg. (770-990 lbs.)
  • Each type of zebra has a preferred area of Africa to live in. The woodlands and grasslands without trees are the favorites of the plains zebra. The mountain zebra lives in Angola, Namibia, and South Africa. The dry Ethiopian and Northern Kenyan grasslands are the home of the Grevy’s zebra.
  • The plains and mountain zebras live in groups that are called ‘herds’, with one solitary male called a stallion and many females, called ‘mares’ that are grouped together in a ‘harem’.
  • Grevy’s zebras do not live in herds but instead, each of the stallions has preset territories.
  • The mares will cross into the territories for breeding and have their babies, which are called ‘foals’. When the foals are old enough, the females will leave the area.
  • Zebras communicate with each other in many ways: facial expressions that can include teeth that are bared or wide opened eyes as well as vocal barking and braying.
  • They also have signals that include snorting or huffing and the method that they position their ears can convey trouble or convey feelings.
  • A zebra’s skin is actually black under the white ‘coat’
  • A zebra lives in Africa and is one of the single-hoofed animals.
  • There are a number of species of zebras and each one has a unique striping pattern.
  • The Grevy’s zebra stripes are very thin, there are vertical stripes on the torso and neck of the mountain zebra and yet its haunches have horizontal stripes.
  • Certain plains zebra subspecies have what is called brown ‘shadow stripes’ in between the black and white coloring.