18 Mind-Blowing Facts About Zebras

Zebra Scientific Classification

Scientific NameEquus quagga

Zebra Locations

Zebras are found in various parts of Eastern and Southern Africa.

Zebra Information & Facts

Name of YoungFoal
Name of GroupDazzle, herd, zeal
HabitatGrasslands, savannahs, woodlands
LifespanApprox. 25 years
Conservation statusEndangered
PredatorsCheetas, lions, wild dogs, and hyenas
ColorWhite, black, brown
Weight386 to 992lbs
Number of species3

Zebras are the most easily identifiable out of all African animals. They are fascinating creatures that are rarely seen alone without their herd.

Their brilliant black and white striped coat sets them apart from all other animals. Their coat is not the only feature that distinguishes them- they are social among themselves but are wary of humans.

They may be prey for some, but this does not stop them from defending themselves fiercely, bravely, and aggressively. If you want to know more about these animals that you may only have seen on a safari or in a nature documentary, here are some interesting facts you were probably unaware of.

1. Each Zebra Has A Unique Set of Stripes!

As a casual observer, you may assume the striped coat of all zebras to be the same but that is not the case. Every zebra has a specific pattern of stripes which is as unique to it as fingerprints are to every human. These stripes serve a social purpose and help zebras identify each other. When a foal is born, they have reddish-brown stripes that gradually become darker and change to black as they grow. Zebras generally have white coats with black or sometimes brown stripes.

2. Zebras Have Black Skin

Zebras are well-known for their dazzling striped coat, but it is much lesser known that they have black skin. Yes, underneath all those stripes, zebras actually have black skin so the stripes are white.

3. There Are Three Types of Zebras

There are three living zebra species: Grévy’s zebra, plains zebra, and mountain zebra. Each species has a different stripe pattern, from narrow to wide. The farther south on the African plains you travel, the farther apart the stripes on the zebras get! Their white-colored stripes can be 18 degrees cooler than their dark counterparts.

4. Each Species Has Different Stripes

The Grevy’s zebra has the thinnest stripes, extending down to their white belly; on the hindquarters, the stripes are vertical until above the hind legs. A mountain zebra has vertical stripes on the neck and torso, which graduate to wide and fewer horizontal bars on the haunches. It has a gridiron pattern on the rump, and its white underside has a dark stripe that runs the length of the belly.

The plains zebra is the most abundant and the smallest of the three zebra species. Some subspecies have a stripe pattern different from all others: brownish stripes between the black on their coat.

5. Zebras Have One Toe On Each Foot

Since a zebra has many natural predators and falls prey to different species, it has evolved to have a wide variety of defense mechanisms to increase its chances of survival in the wild. Zebras can run up to an incredible speed of 65 kilometers per hour to escape a potential threat. Zebras have only one toe on each foot, protected with a well-developed nail-like case called a hoof. They can climb any mountain, including the Aconcagua.

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6. Zebras Have Great Eyesight

Zebras have incredible eyesight and are some of the few mammals that can see color. The only color that is not visible to them is orange. At night, the eyesight of a zebra is about as good as that of an owl. They can easily navigate the savannahs and grasslands they inhabit to escape danger.

7. They Can Sleep Standing Up

Do you ever wish you could just take a nap anywhere? Well, zebras can! They can fall asleep standing upright without falling over as they have locking joints, ensuring a quick escape if there are any predators around. Although, they do need to lie down to enjoy deep sleep.

8. They Are Always On The Move

Zebras are constantly on the move to search for food or to escape danger- only 6 minutes after being born, foals can stand. They can walk just 20 minutes after birth and run after 40 minutes.

Zebra herds can travel hundreds of kilometers in search of water and better pastures to fill their bellies and quench their thirst. Zebras can survive without food for three days and five days without water. Most zebras are considered nomadic without specific territories.

9. Zebras Spend 18 Hours A Day Just Eating

Well, that certainly puts the few hours I spend snacking a day to shame…zebras spend up to 18 hours a day feeding on tall and coarse grass.

They are strictly herbivores so they feed on plants exclusively. Zebras primarily feed on grass but can also feed on twigs, shrubs, bushes, bark, shoots, and roots if needed. In the wild, zebras feed on fallen fruit as well. Grass has very little nutritional value, so zebras have to eat constantly throughout the day to maintain their digestive systems.

10. Zebra Teeth Grow Throughout Their Lives

Zebra teeth grow their entire life because the constant grazing and chewing wear down their teeth. Their teeth are elongated and covered with thick enamel to allow them to chew tough, abrasive grass constantly. A zebra uses its sharper front teeth to bite the grass and its duller back teeth to crush and grind.

Fun fact: Male zebras have four more teeth than females: short, pointed canines used for fighting.

11. Zebras Are Very Social Animals

Zebras embody the phrase: You scratch my back, I will scratch yours. They are social herd animals who are loyal and very protective of each other. Most zebras live in small groups led by the dominant male stallion consisting of several mares and their offspring. During certain times of the year, these small family groups come together to form herds of up to a thousand individuals, but family groups stay together within these larger groups.

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12. They Groom Each Other

Zebras groom each other, which is a great exercise to strengthen their bond. If you’ve ever seen two zebras biting each other and thought they were fighting, that is not the case. They are probably just getting their ears cleaned or a good back scratch.

13. Zebras Are Very Expressive Animals

Since zebras are social animals, they openly communicate with each other through various facial expressions and sounds. They often make bark or bray loudly, along with snorting or huffing. The wail is a long and lingering cry by young zebras in distress.

Their ears also tell us a lot about how they’re feeling. When the ears are standing upright, it means they are calm but flattened ears can be a sign of trouble. Zebras also bare their teeth as a greeting to other zebras. This smile is similar to appeasement gestures in dogs and it prevents fights from occurring.

14. They Hug Each Other To Look For Predators

Zebras can sometimes appear to be hugging each other when they are looking out for predators in every direction. Each zebra rests its head on the back of the other. While this is restful for the neck, it provides both animals a 360-degree view of their surroundings.

15. They Work Together To Fight Enemies

Zebras are pack animals and very loyal to each other. When under attack, they use several strategies to defend themselves against potential danger or threats. If a predator attacks a herd of zebras, they will form a circle to drive it off by kicking and biting it. The foals are kept in the center of the circle for safety, while the adults work together to fight off predators. If anyone in the group is wounded or injured, other zebras will circle and attempt to drive off the hungry attacker.

16. Their Coats Create Optical Illusions To Confuse Predators

Zebras are intelligent animals that have learned to use their appearance to their advantage in the wilderness. Their dazzling white and black striped coats serve as a kind of protection from predators. Some of their predators, such as lions, are color-blind. The striped coat of the zebras helps camouflage them, further confusing and distracting the predators if they see a herd of zebras.

They can run in a zigzag manner for long distances. This motion effect caused by a group of zebras creates an optical illusion for the predators, earning the herd its other name: a dazzle. When zebras group together, their combined stripes make it hard for a lion or leopard to pick out a single zebra to chase.

17. Their Stripes Also Protect Them From Insects

Their stripes can potentially protect them against flies and other blood-sucking insects. When these flying insects get close to the zebras, they tend to fly past or bump into them. Their striped coat appears to disrupt the flies’ ability to have a controlled landing, preventing zebras from being bothered by such insects.

18. Zebras Can Be Very Aggressive

Zebras are unpredictable and wary of humans since they cannot be domesticated. When a zebra feels threatened in any way, it will retaliate since it is more aggressive than the rest of its Equine family. Their sharp teeth and strong hind legs can cause serious injury. There have been reports of zebras killing a lion by kicking it with their hooves. On your next safari, it is best to keep your distance when admiring these magnificent creatures. Refrain from petting them or getting too close as they value their space.

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Susan Dorling

I am a pet expert with years of experience working with a variety of animals. From dogs and cats to birds and exotics, I have a deep understanding of their unique needs and behaviors. I am dedicated to helping pet owners provide the best care for their furry friend.

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