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Zebra Information

Zebra standing side-on Quick Zebra Facts

Family: Equidae (Zebras)
Scientific name: Equus quagga
Average shoulder height: Males - 1.35 m (4ft 6in).
Weight: Males - 320 kg (700 lb); Females - 260 kg (570lb)
Gestation period: 360-390 days
Life expectancy: 20 yrs

Appearance
The distinctive stripes of the Burchell's zebra run diagonally and lengthways on the rump and continue on to the belly. On the rump there are usually chestnut or yellowish "shadow" stripes in the middle of the white stripes. Like human fingerprints and irises, each individual has a unique stripe pattern.

Zebra stripes showing shadow stripes
Zebra's rump showing "shadow" stripes

The muzzle is black. A short, stiff mane runs down the back of the neck and the tail has a whisk of long black hair on the end.

Behavior
Active in the cooler early morning and late afternoon. Drinks at least once a day and has a strong preference for clean water.

Stallions fight viciously for control of females. Males that do not hold breeding herds join bachelor herds with hierarchy depending on age.

If threatened by predators, herds flee in tight bunches. Herd stallions defend their groups by running in the rear as they flee, kicking and biting attackers.

Predators are much more successful if an individual zebra can be separated from the herd. The contrasting black and white stripes may help to confuse predators.

Zebra foal
Zebra foal standing on grassy plain

Reproduction
Single foals weighing 30-35 kg (66-77 lbs) are born at any time of year after a gestation of 360-390 days. Foals can stand after about 10 minutes, start eating grass within a few days and wean at 11 months.

Lions and spotted hyenas take adult zebras; foals are taken by lions, spotted hyenas, leopards and cheetahs.

Diet
Prefers short, green grass but will eat tall, coarse growth. An unselective bulk feeder, the zebra is less sensitive to food quality than other large herbivores and can maintain good body condition on very poor veld.

Sounds
The alarm call is a high-pitched, repeated two-syllable "kwa-hi". The sound is typical of the African bushveld and the colloquial name "quagga" is derived from it.

Above information from The Ultimate Field Guide and other African mammal field guides.

Further Reading
You can read an interesting article about the zebras' role in conserving Africa's tropical grasslands, based on research by Princeton University ecologist Daniel Rubenstein.

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