Zebras are built to resist the African plains’ blazing heat and relentless drought. The parents and other members of the herd protect the young zebras from danger, including other animals and sometimes each other.
Zebras are believed to protect themselves through three things: their striped coat, zig-zag patterned running, and hazardous kick.
Yet the odds of a zebra foal making it to adulthood are low, and it is the responsibility of every zebra in the herd to ensure the foal’s safety. Let’s get into the details and learn more about how zebras protect themselves in the wild.
Are Zebras Easy to Kill
In some respects, zebras are as easy to kill as they look. For instance, they move more slowly than other animals like horses and are stripped to assist in identification. Thus, the number of predators for zebra is also quite high.
Among these predators are lions, crocodiles, and cheetahs. In most cases, these predators can outpace and tear them to shreds. However, zebras have defenses to keep them safe from these predators.
Zebras rely mostly on their tremendous stamina, powerful legs, and large groups to protect themselves. Zebras are extremely fast animals, capable of up to 35 miles per hour. They have remarkable stamina, which helps them avoid being eaten by predators they can’t outrun. For instance, their strong thighs can deliver devastating kicks that can dislocate the jaws of their predators.
Let’s look at how zebras defend their herd and themselves from predators and threats.
How Do Lone Zebras Protect Themselves?
A zebra’s stamina and powerful kick are its primary means of self-defense. Zebras’ top speed is only about 35 mph, significantly slower than some of their predators, like leopards. However, zebras have the strength and stamina to run over vast distances for much longer than most predators.
Zebras can also use their hind legs to kick, much like a horse. The kick is powerful enough to knock out the predator. Their legs are vital to their protection since they use them to kick away potential predators. Zebras also bite and push back against their attackers to protect themselves.
Zebras need these traits to stay safe from predators like lions, African hunting dogs, leopards, and hyenas, some of the strongest animals on earth. Also, if they get too close to the water, crocodiles will try to eat them. So, these attributes of zebras help them stay safe from these dangers.
How Do Zebras Protect Each Other in Herd?
One of the zebra’s many physical adaptations is its distinctive pattern of black and white stripes. These stripes let members of the same species identify one another and allow them to blend in with the rest of the herd and hide from predators.
As a rule, predators choose the weakest herd members when hunting zebras. However, when there is a herd of zebras together, the predator’s duty becomes more challenging because of the mingling of the stripes. Zebras’ unusual pattern of stripes not only provides daytime camouflage but also makes it difficult for their nighttime predators to get a good look at zebra’s herd.
Moreover, zebras appear muscular and healthy because of the subcutaneous fat beneath their skin. Predators, as was previously said, target the most defenseless individuals in the herd. Because of their thick layer of fat, zebras give the impression that they are in excellent physical condition. The excellent physique and the zebras’ distinctive black-and-white markings make it impossible for predators to pick out the weakest in the herd.
Additionally, their thin layer of fur keeps them safe from the insects that inhabit these grasslands. And since the zebra’s habitat is so close to the equator, it helps them stay cool even as the temperature soars.
Their massive muscles and lung capacity allow them to travel long distances with little fatigue. Since large predators like lions cannot cover such significant distances, this adaptation has proven beneficial to the zebra species.
Furthermore, zebras sleep in shifts so that one group is always awake and alert to its surroundings while it is gathered in large numbers on the savannah. Due to the placement of their eyes on the sides of their skulls, these animals can look over the top of tall grasses while grazing. Because of their keen eyesight, zebra herds rotate between resting and watching the horizon for danger. All the zebras, including the newborns, will scatter at the first hint of disturbance.
How Do Zebra Stripes Protect Them From Predators?
Researchers have been at odds for 150 years over this fundamental issue. However, predator avoidance through camouflage, species-wide communication, and thermoregulation are all possible explanations for this debate.
Researchers have speculated that zebras’ stripes serve as camouflage from potential predators. A zebra’s undulating stripes are virtually identical to the undulating grass blades surrounding it. Since lions are colorblind, they can’t tell the zebra’s black and white stripes from the grass’s yellow, brown, or green lines.
When zebras congregate in large numbers, their stripe patterns become less noticeable. Instead of seeing several separate zebras, the lion perceives a big, moving, striped mass. Therefore, the lion will require a well-thought-out plan to hunt down and kill just one zebra.
If a lion were to try to follow the zebras, he would have difficulty determining their destination. Thus, the inability to distinguish between zebras makes it more difficult for the lion to identify and track the weaker members of the herd.
Zebras’ stripes make them difficult for other animals to tell apart, but they’re useful for internal communication. Each zebra has its unique pattern of stripes, much like humans’ unique fingerprints. According to zoologists, this is how zebras identify one another apart in a herd.
In addition, zebras have an excellent memory and can rapidly identify their herd from another, and a mother and her young can do the same within the larger herd.
If the zebra and her foal are in danger, the zebra’s first instinct may be to run away together. In the event that the foal is separated from its mother, a mare who is not the foal’s mother may be able to provide protection.
In addition, zebra herds will defend a wounded zebra by surrounding the victim in a protective circle and chasing the predator away. Zebras will also use devastating kicks to defend their young if they feel threatened.