Close your eyes
and think of a zebra. What kind of stripes can you visualize?
Silver white with black markings? Or wait, maybe your zebra
had different colored markings on the muzzle and on the head?
Or probably your zebra is yellowish and has black stripes.
Does your zebra have stripes on the hoofs? On the legs? Or
maybe your zebra sports narrow stripes, which are many in
Makes you wonder whether there are different varieties of
zebras, right? Yes, there are three main varieties to be
exact, but all with a feature that is common and unique at
A zebra's most distinguishing feature is its stripes. While all
zebras do have stripes, no two zebras have stripes that are exactly
alike. Somewhat like our fingerprints. Nature has not made any
identical sets. The main function of the presence of the stripes is
to serve as protective coloration in its natural habitat. The
presence of the stripes breaks up the body outline and makes it very
difficult for a predator to make out a single zebra when a herd is
The zebra is referred to in many languages as the striped horse,
which is an apt description as the zebra like the horse belongs to
the family Equidae. Zebras are smaller in size when compared to
horses and they have many similarities with another cousin from the
same family - the wild ass. Their common features include a short
erect mane, large ears and a tufted tail. Male zebras are called
A Zebra With It's Foal
Zebras generally live in small family groups consisting of a
stallion, several mares and their foals. They often form mixed herds
with other animals like antelopes. This arrangement gives them an
advantage of having each other's skills at their disposal for being
warned of predators. The zebra feeds mainly on grass for which it
may even migrate long distances to find good grass to eat. Zebras
also eat salty soil because they get certain essential nutrients
There are three main species of the zebra that have been identified.
There are several sub species too. The basis of differentiating the
species is the arrangement of the stripes.
The mountain zebra
This is the smallest of the zebras, standing about 1.2 meters tall
at the shoulders. Its strong and muscular body is silvery white in
color and it has short and wiry legs. Its black stripes are present
everywhere on the body except on the stomach and the inner part of
the thighs. The markings on its head are brown in color and its
muzzle is rich brown in color. The best place to see mountain
zebras would be their natural habitat - the mountain ranges of South
Africa, where you can spot them in small herds. They have long ears
and the stripes form a grid like pattern on the hump.
The Grevy zebra stands 1.5 meters tall at the shoulders and
has numerous and narrow stripes. They are also referred to as plains
zebras. They used be plentiful but are now nearly extinct. They now
inhabit the arid plains of eastern Africa. This variety is the
largest of the zebras and can weigh up to 450 kilos.
The Burchell zebra is named after the British naturalist William John Burchell. They have a pale yellow
coloring and their stripes are
broad and black. The stripes are also interspersed with some fainter
markings generally referred to as shadow stripes.
There are some subspecies of this variety of the zebra. Some have
stripes on the hoofs too, while others have pure white legs.
Sometimes, Burchell's zebras are referred to as quaggas. However the
real quaggas are now extinct. They used to be darker in color than
the zebras and be striped only on the neck and the shoulders with
the back being a solid brown. Quaggas used to be plentiful in the
late 1600s. Hunting has been the main reason for their extinction.
The last of this species died in captivity in 1883.
Zebras are hunted for their flesh, skin and their tendency to be
trained easily for zoos and circuses. Among animals, a zebra's
greatest enemy is the lion. Its other enemies are hyenas and wild