And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so. Genesis 1:30
Zebras are one of the most beautiful herbivores that have adapted to different grassland habitats in Africa.
They are ungulates (hoofed animals) that belong to the Equidae family (horse-like animals). The name “zebra” comes from the Old Portuguese word “zevra” which means “wild ass.” Adult zebras can weigh between 300 and 450 kilograms, their body length can be as long as 9 feet, and they can grow up to 5 feet. They are known to have excellent eyesight and hearing.
Here are 10 little-known facts about zebras:
- A zebra’s stripe pattern is unique to that individual. It is like a human’s fingerprint. When zebras are in a group, their stripes make it harder for predators to pick out one to chase. According to research, their stripes may also help in deterring bloodsucking insects.
- Zebras can run up to 65 kilometers or 40 miles per hour. Baby zebras can run in one hour after they are born. When a predator chases a Zebra, it will zigzag from side to side to escape. A zebra has excellent stamina that usually helps it to outrun predators, however, when cornered it will rear up and kick or bite its attackers.
- Zebras form close bonds with their families. They are close to their mothers and male zebras are known to have strong ties with their fathers.
- Zebras use vocal expressions such as sniffing and balking to communicate with each other. They also use their ears to communicate their mood. When angry, their ears are pulled back. When they are calm or in a relaxed state, their ears stand erect.
- There are three species of Zebras. The Plains (Burchell’s) Zebra, which is the most common species, is found in south and east Africa. The Grevy’s Zebra is found in Kenya and Ethiopia. The Mountain Zebra, which is found in southwest Africa, has two subspecies (Hartmann’s and Cape). The three zebra species differ in appearance primarily due to their size and stripe patterns.
- Zebras live in close-knit groups called families or harems. When a group member is attacked, its family comes to its defense, circling the injured zebra and attempting to drive off the predators.
- Ancient Romans called the Grevy’s zebra “hippotigris,” meaning “horse tiger” and trained it to pull carts for the circus.
- Zebras stand up while sleeping. They mostly eat grass and have an average lifespan of 25 years in the wild.
- Unlike their closest relatives, horses and donkeys, Zebras have never been domesticated, though several attempts have been made, as they respond to stress in a very unpredictable nature, have a strong temperament, are aggressive and known to attack people.
- The Grevy’s Zebra, also known as the “Imperial Zebra” is the largest species of zebra. When compared to other zebras, these species are taller, have larger ears, and their stripes are narrower. They are the largest wild members of the horse family.