Zebra is a striped
member of the horse family. There are three species--the common zebra, Grevy's zebra, and
the mountain zebra. They live in herds in the deserts and grasslands of eastern and
A zebra has alternating white and black or dark brown stripes. Each of the three species
of zebras has a distinctive stripe pattern. In addition, much like fingerprints in human
beings, no individual zebra's stripes are identical to those of another zebra. The stripes
may help to keep herds of zebras together. Experiments have shown that from birth zebras
are attracted to objects with stripes. Zebras with abnormal stripe patterns are usually
not allowed in the herd and seldom survive.
A zebra eats grass. It may also eat bark, leaves, buds, fruits, and roots. A zebra spends
most of its time eating.
The main enemies of zebras include lions, hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs. Zebras protect
themselves from predators by keeping together in the herd. At least one member of a herd
remains alert to danger at all times. A zebra's large ears rotate to locate sounds, and
its night vision is as good as an owl's. If attacked, a zebra usually tries to run away.
Zebras can run at speeds of up to 40 miles (65 kilometers) per hour. Zebras may live up to
22 years in the wild.
A zebra herd may range in size from a few individuals to several hundred. Most herds
include smaller groups that consist of a male, several females, and their young. Young
males often form herds with no females.
Although zebras seldom fight, competition among males for a particular female during the
breeding season may become intense and involve pushing, biting, and kicking. Females
become sexually mature at the age of 3 and may reproduce throughout the rest of their
life. Most males begin mating at about 5 years of age.
The female zebra carries a single young, called a foal, inside her body for about a year
before giving birth. A newborn foal weighs 70 to 80 pounds (32 to 36 kilograms). It can
stand within an hour after birth. In a few days, the young zebra begins eating grass. It
may gain up to 1 pound (0.45 kilograms) a day for the next two months.
Zebras face an uncertain future in the wild. They must compete with ranchers and farmers
for grazing land and scarce water resources. Many zebras have been killed for their meat
and their hides. Only the common zebra is still numerous. Both Grevy's zebra and the
mountain zebra are endangered. A fourth kind of zebra, the quagga, became extinct in the
Scientific classification. Zebras belong to the genus Equus in the horse family, Equidae.
The scientific name for the common zebra is Equus burchelli.