Common Zebra

Scientific Name: Equus quagga
Irish Name: Séabra
IUCN Status: Near threatened

The common zebra, like all zebra subspecies, are instantly identifiable by their white and black stripes. They are similar in shape to small horses or donkeys, with short, dumpy bodies, short legs and upright ears. They can weigh approximately 220 – 322 kg, with females being lighter and with thinner necks.

Common Zebra

The common zebra, like all zebra subspecies, are instantly identifiable by their white and black stripes. They are similar in shape to small horses or donkeys, with short, dumpy bodies, short legs and upright ears. They can weigh approximately 220 – 322 kg, with females being lighter and with thinner necks.

General Information

Where do they live? (Natural habitat)

The common zebra's habitat is generally wooded savanna and grasslands, both temperate and tropical. Their geographical range, while fragmented, spans much of southern and eastern Africa, south of the Sahara.

How long do they live?

On average, zebras live for approximately 20 years in the wild, and up to 40 years in zoos.

What do they eat?

Zebras are grazers, and predominantly feed on grass. During the dry seasons they will sometimes browse or dig for bulbotubers and rootstalks. Their digestive system works very fast, and they graze almost constantly.

Group name

A group of zebras is called typically called a herd. Within a herd, you will find family groups comprised of a dominant male and his mares.

Zoo location

African Plains alongside the giraffes, ostriches and scimitar-horned oryxes.

Closest related species / sister species

The Grevy's zebra is the common zebra's closest relative, followed by the mountain zebra, followed by the donkeys and wild asses.

Animal class

Mammalia

Animal order

Perissodactyla

Fun facts

Good communicators

Zebras make a wide array of sounds; they can snort, nicker, bray and use a high-pitched bark. These are all ways of communicating, with some being similar to sounds that horses make, and others, like the braying, being more like the sound a donkey makes. These noises can travel much greater distances in comparison to their other Equidae relatives.

Zig-zagging

Zebras are very fast animals, and can zig-zag when chased with great dexterity. They can reach speeds of up to 65km/h in the open, and foals can run with the herd mere hours after birth.

White stripes

Zebras are black, with white stripes not white with black stripes!

Recent research and embryological evidence has shown that the zebra's underlying, primary colour is black, with white being the addition on top.

Why so stripey?

Zebras are thought to have stripes for a variety of reasons; to keep them cool and regulate body temperature, and to confuse predators and biting insects.

Defensive measures

Zebras can be quite aggressive, and will defend themselves against predators by using their powerful kick, and by forming a protective semi-circle to ward off and face any attackers.

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Family Life

Zebras are very social animals that live in groups called herds, but within those herds, you will find family groups comprised of a dominant male and his mares. Female zebras will reach maturity earlier than males. They can have their first foal from three years, whereas their male counterparts cannot breed until the age of 5 - 6. The foal is protected by its mother and the dominant stallion, as well as the other females in family group. The calf is able to stand, walk and run very soon after it is born, and will nurse for about twelve months.

Baby name

A baby zebra is called a foal, as is most common for equines as a group.

Gestation (pregnancy) period

Approximately 12 months.

Number of young at birth

1 foal.

Weight at birth

Approximately 25 - 32 kg.

Age at maturity

Females are mature from three years, males are mature from approximately 5 - 6 years of age.

Adult male name

Stallion

Adult female name

Mare

Size male adult

Male adult zebras can reach a height of 127 - 140 cm, with a body length of 217 - 246 cm, inclusive of head. They weigh approximately 220 - 322 kg.

Size female adult

Females are lighter and have thinner necks than male zebras.

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Conservation

Near Threatened

The common zebra is listed as Near Threatened by the International Union for Conservation in Nature.

Current population estimate

There are approximately 500,000 in total in the wild but their populations are decreasing.

Threats

Zebras are threatened by hunting, culling, habitat destruction, and grazing competition from livestock. They are also affected by climate change and droughts, as well as war and civil unrest in the countries where the species is extant.

What is Dublin Zoo doing?

Dublin Zoo promotes education about, and awareness of, the species to our visitors, through our education department.

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FAQs

  • Are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?

    Zebras are black with white stripes! Recent research and embryological evidence has shown that the zebra’s underlying, primary colour is black, with white being the addition on top.

  • What do zebras eat?

    Zebras are grazers, and predominantly eat grass. During the dry seasons they will sometimes browse or dig for corms (also known as bulbotubers) and rhizomes (also known as rootstalks).

  • What sound does a zebra make?

    Zebras make a wide array of sounds, They can snort, nicker, bray and use a high-pitched bark.

  • Where do zebras live?

    The common zebra’s habitat is generally wooded savanna and grasslands, both temperate and tropical. Their geographical range, while fragmented, spans much of southern and eastern Africa, south of the Sahara.

  • Why do zebras have stripes?

    Zebras are thought to have stripes for a variety of reasons; to keep them cool and regulate body temperature, and to confuse predators and biting insects.

  • Are zebras related to horses?

    Zebras are a member of the Equidae family, which means they are closely related to horses and donkeys!

  • Are zebras endangered?

    Common zebra are considered near threatened by the IUCN Red List. The Cape mountain zebra and Grévy’s zebra are endangered.

  • How fast can a zebra run?

    Zebras are very fast animals, and can zig-zag when chased with great dexterity. They can reach speeds of up to 65 km per hour in the open, and foals can run with the herd mere hours after birth.

  • What is a baby zebra called?

    A baby zebra is called a foal.

  • How long do zebras live?

    On average, zebras live for approximately 20 years in the wild and up to 40 years in zoos.

  • How much does a zebra weigh?

    An average zebra will weigh approximately 220 – 322 kg, but can reach weights of up to 350 kg.

  • What is a group of zebras called?

    A group of zebras is known as a herd.

  • What eats zebras?

    The lion is the zebra’s main predator, but they can also fall victim to large crocodiles when they cross bodies of water. Other opportunistic hunters may show interest too, such as hyenas and wild dogs.

  • How many stripes does a zebra have?

    The common zebra’s stripes are all arranged in a unique pattern, and because of this, it is hard to say how many stripes a zebra may have as each one is different!

  • How tall is a zebra?

    Male adult zebras can reach a height of 127 – 140 cm.

  • Can a zebra and a horse mate?

    Horses and zebra can breed and produce hybrids, but this does not happen naturally in the wild and requires human intervention.

  • Is a zebra a herbivore?

    Zebras are herbivores; they graze and predominantly feed on grass.

  • What is a zebra's habitat?

    The common zebra’s habitat is generally wooded savanna and grasslands, both temperate and tropical.

  • Are zebras born with stripes?

    Zebra foals are born with stripes.

  • Are zebras faster than horses?

    Zebras can walk, trot, canter and gallop, and have excellent stamina, but horses are generally faster.

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