Animals Nature


Grévy’s zebra

Zebras are equines that live in Africa.  Horses and donkeys are also in the Equus genus.  They do not have stripes.  Zebras do.  They are the natural referees of the wild.  On a quiet night, a bystander can hear the small drill off a whistle ring out through the arid atmosphere.  Somewhere close or far a Zebra is calling for a clock stoppage to determine the severity of a foul during an LBA (Lion Basketball Association) game.  The predators are now the prey and raised roars are fruitless and will result in an immediate ejection.  The lions stay in line both metaphorically and physically.  The stakes are too high and the athlete’s pride is at stake.

The word zebra originated from the Portuguese word zebro or ezebro.  It was given to a local feral equine of the Middle Ages and evolved from there.  Ancient Romans and Greeks called the animal hippotigris or horse tiger.  The common thread would be the stripes.  Zebra is pronounced with a short e in the UK.  The initial vowel is longer in the United States and sticks to the original pronunciation.  Multiple zebras are called a zeal or dazzle.

Zebras have erect manes and long faces and necks.  Their tails are tufted.  A barrel-chested body builds their core.  Long slim legs are capped with a spade-shaped toe that is adorned with a hard hoof.  The front limbs are longer than their back two.  The beast’s profile is designed for grazing.  Large teeth are crowned to eat grass.  The molars are ridged and equipped for grinding that sweet, sweet lettuce.  Males will use their teeth to fight and exert dominance.  The eyes sit near the top of the head.  They can spot danger while they eat.  Long ears do ear things and hear stuff.

plains zebra
Plains Zebra – Photo Credit: brainstorm1984

What is up with Zebra stripes?

Intrepid white and black stripes are the dominant characteristic of the zebra.  The underside and legs are white when unstriped.  The muzzle is dark.  Zebra skin is black underneath their coat.  Certain stripe layouts are unanimous in all zebras.  Their backside develops species-specific patterns.  The layout is unique per individual in its entirety.  The stripes appear after eight months of embryonic development.  Baby zebras or foals come into the world with white and brown coats.  The brown blackens with age.  Some albino zebras gallop in the forests of Mount Kenya.  Their dark stripes are blonde.

Several stripe hypothesizes (SSH) have formed over the years in the scientific community.  They crypsis hypothesis was created by the explorer and anthropologist Alfred Russel Wallace in 1896.  It suggests that the pattern allows the animal to blend into its environment and break apart its circumference.  Predators get confused and cannot make out a single outline.  This theory is strengthened in the nighttime when hyenas and lions hunt.  The weakness is a zebra’s scent can still be lifted and daytime observation of the stripes is impossible for most animals.

The aposematic hypothesis follows the logic of aposematism and states that the stripes formed as warning coloration to discourage predators.  It was created in 1971 by the biologist L. H. Matthews.  It is thought to work on smaller foes.  The confusion hypothesis was formed around the same time and named in the same eponymous fashion.  Fleeing zebras can create optical illusions and distort their perceived numbers.

mountain zebras
Mountain Zebra – Photo Credit: flowcomm

Hypothesizes and more

Young Darwin unveiled the social function hypothesis in 1871.  The stripes took a more practical role of tribalism and social pride.  The thermoregulatory hypothesis came into fruition in 1971.  The seventy first year of a century was apparently the optimal time to discuss stripes.  The biologist H. A. Baldwin dropped the knowledge that the black absorbed heat, while the white stripe reflected it for a fifty percent reduction of the torrid rays.  The fly protection hypothesis is the most difficult to grasp and can fly over the pedestrian brain.  It states that a fly is less likely to land on a chaotic pattern than a monochromatic one.  Zebras have shorter hair and it could be an evolutionary defense mechanism.

The Plains zebra will travel up to three hundred ten miles to find water.  Their migration patterns have earned them the title of the longest land migration animal.  They are more water dependent than the other water species and will stay within seven miles of a water source.  Grévy’s zebras store water well and can survive up to a week without it.  Mountain zebras live up to six thousand six hundred feet from sea level.  The animals spend around seven hours a day sleeping.  They lie down at night, but remain erect during their daytime naps.

Zebras survive on roots, fruits, bark, leaves, buds and grasses.  Over sixty percent of their time is spent feeding.  The Plains zebra is a pioneer grazer and will clear the canopy for pickier species.  Nile crocodiles attack when they are near water.  Hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs, lions and leopards pose a threat everywhere else.  Zebras can run over forty-two miles per hour compared to a lion’s thirty-six.  Speed and direction changes are their only resource.  A surprise attack needs to conclude within six seconds or the lion fails.  Hyenas need to be more tactical.  Zebras will fight back.

baby z
Baby Z – Photo Credit: David Berkowitz

Gestation lasts between eleven and thirteen months.  A single child is born.  The foal can run within its first hour of life.  They will follow anything that moves.  Mothers take extra care to condition and imprint on them.  The young are protected by the herd.  Grévy’s zebras have a territorial male that guards them alone when the mothers are away.  Some stallions will assimilate with children that are not their own to attract females.  Male Plains zebras are the opposite and do not allow foreign foals into their domain.  Zebras, check them out.

Zebra Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus: Equus

Zebra Species

Equus zebra Mountain Zebra (South Africa, Namibia and Angola)
Equus quagga Plains Zebra (South Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique)
Equus grevyi Grévy’s Zebra (Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan)
Grévy’s zebra
Grévy’s Zebra – Photo Credit: bobosh_t

1 comment on “Zebra

  1. Fantastic post. Funny and informative.
    And a chance to do something with my zebra poem:

    TRYST AT THE TRUST (based on a true story)

    I read that in Kenya at the Wildlife Trust,
    Two distinct species felt an uncommon lust,
    When a wild Grevey’s zebra and an amorous donkey,
    Became acquainted and produced a zonkey.
    It had stripes on its legs and a donkey’s pride,
    But was not black and white, on either side.

    The caretakers struggled to believe their own eyes,
    And began to think that their Trust was unwise.
    Because hybrids like this weren’t supposed to exist!
    And if they kept their Trust, who’d be next to tryst?
    They looked at the elephant first. Then the rhino.
    Could they be relephant? Elephino. 

    I also write humorous animal themed essays. Check out my new blog post on World Migratory Bird Day on my website at You can also read some other animal essays there, on coyotes and cats, which I offer as samples of my soon to be published book, Hold the Apocalypse – Pass Me a Scientist Please.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: