View Full Version : Week 27 - Zebra

December 6th, 2007, 12:44 PM

Physical Characteristics
Zebras, horses and wild asses are all equids, long-lived animals that move quickly for their large size and have teeth built for grinding and cropping grass. Zebras have horselike bodies, but their manes are made of short, erect hair, their tails are tufted at the tip and their coats are striped.

Three species of zebra still occur in Africa, two of which are found in East Africa. The most numerous and widespread species in the east is Burchell's, also known as the common or plains zebra. The other is the Grevy's zebra, named for Jules Grevy, a president of France in the 1880s who received one from Abyssinia as a gift, and now found mostly in northern Kenya. (The third species, Equus zebra, is the mountain zebra, found in southern and southwestern Africa.)

The Burchell's zebra is built like a stocky pony. Its coat pattern can vary greatly in number and width of stripes. The stripes are a form of disruptive coloration which breaks up the outline of the body. At dawn or in the evening, when their predators are most active, zebras look indistinct and may confuse predators by distorting distance. Their shiny coats dissipate over 70% of incoming heat.

Burchell's zebras inhabit savannas, from treeless grasslands to open woodlands; they sometimes occur in tens of thousands in migratory herds on the Serengeti plains. Grevy's zebras are now mainly restricted to parts of northern Kenya. Although they are adapted to semi-arid conditions and require less water than other zebra species, these zebras compete with domestic livestock for water and have suffered heavy poaching for their meat and skins.

The Burchell's zebra’s social system is based on a harem of females led by a stallion. Stallions establish their harems by abducting fillies who have come into their first estrus. These fillies advertise their condition with a peculiar stance: straddled legs with raised tail and lowered head. All the stallions in the area will fight for a filly in this condition, as she will permanently stay with whichever stallion succeeds in mating with her. The newest female in a harem assumes lowest social status, and is often received with hostility by the other females. Once a female has bonded to a stallion, she will no longer advertise herself when in estrus.

When a foal is born the mother keeps all other zebras (even the members of her family) away from it for 2 or 3 days, until it learns to recognize her by sight, voice and smell.

While all foals have a close association with their mothers, the male foals are also close to their fathers. They leave their group on their own accord between the ages of 1 and 4 years to join an all-male bachelor group until they are strong enough to head a family.

The zebra, though water dependent, is a very adaptable grazer, able to eat both short young shoots and long flowering grasses. It is often a pioneer in the grassland community—the first to enter tall or wet pastures. Wildebeests and gazelle follow once the zebras have trampled and clipped the vegetation shorter.

Predators and Threats
Zebras are important prey for lions and hyenas, and to a lesser extent for hunting dogs, leopards and cheetahs. When a family group is attacked, the members form a semicircle, face the predator and watch it, ready to bite or strike should the attack continue. If one of the family is injured the rest will often encircle it to protect it from further attack.
Like many species of East Africa’s grazing animals, the Burchell's zebra is most in danger of habitat loss and competition for water with livestock.

Did You Know?

Romans called Grevy's zebras 'hippotigris' and trained them to pull two-wheeled carts for exhibition in circuses.

At first glance zebras in a herd might all look alike, but their stripe patterns are as distinctive as fingerprints are in man. Scientists can identify individual zebras by comparing patterns, stripe widths, color and scars.

ap Dafydd
December 7th, 2007, 08:40 AM
But is the zebra a white animal with black stripes (as it's traditionally been described) or a black animal with white stripes (as seems to be the thinking nowadays)?!?!?

gwyn eich byd


December 7th, 2007, 12:01 PM
I look around a bit and this is the best article I found on the subject


It is generally believed that zebras are dark animals, with white stripes where the pigmentation is inhibited. The pigment of the hair is found solely in the hair and not in the skin. The reasons for thinking that they were originally pigmented animals are that (1) white horses would not survive well in the African plains or forests; (2) there used to be a fourth species of zebra, the quagga (which was overeaten to extinction in the eighteen hundreds). The quagga had the zebra striping pattern in the front of the animal, but had a dark rump; (3) when the region between the pigmented bands becomes too wide, secondary stripes emerge, as if suppression was weakening.