49 Interesting Facts About Zebras

Last updated on May 26th, 2023

Zebras are intriguing animals. They are must-see animals during an African safari. They are members of the horse family and they are closely related to donkeys. Their mysterious stripes will never cease to amaze. So, are zebras white with black stripes or black with white stripes?

Zebras continue to boggle our minds. Can you tame them? When do their babies start walking? What are their eating habits? Can they see colors and differentiate smells? What about their stripes? Are zebras endangered? There is a lot to know about zebras. 

Let us explore the top 49 facts about zebras.

1. Baby Zebras Are Tough

Baby zebras put human babies to shame. Imagine a baby weighing about 70 pounds at birth. Within 20 minutes from birth, a young zebra (foal) can stand and it can even run within an hour.

2. Can Zebras Teach Us Something about Stress Management?

Seems zebras handle stress better than humans. When they are stressed, they simply shake it off. A zebra will shake its entire body to release stress. After the shake, it will go back to munching grass.

3. Zebras Spend Around 60 to 80 Percent of Their Time Eating

Zebras are born to eat, what a beautiful life. When they are not eating, they are sleeping. They feed on grasses, leaves, and stems of bushes. 

4. Zebras are Walking Barcodes

Just like our fingerprints, the stripes on every zebra are unique. Scientists can scan zebra images and identify individual zebras by reading their stripes just like you read a barcode. This technology is very advanced to the extent that it compensates for changes in weight, posture, and pregnancy. 

5. Think it is All Black & White in the World of Zebras?

You are mistaken, zebras can see colors. They have excellent eyesight and can see in color, however, they cannot distinguish certain colors particularly orange.

6. Zebras Have a Good Sense of Smell

Apart from excellent eyesight which includes night vision, zebras have a sharp sense of smell, taste, and hearing. Seems zebras can do most things that humans do. 

7. So You Thought Zebras Have Poor Memory?

Seems you are mistaken. A research study published by Science Daily showed that zebras can remember the migratory routes that they used in the past and the ones that had good foraging conditions. 

8. When Do Babies Start Eating Grass?

Baby zebras start nibbling grass within several weeks from birth when human babies are still suckling. This just goes to show how these babies are tough. They are already mature by the time they are born.

9. Mothers Separate Their Newborns from Other Zebras for Several Days

This drives away curious interlopers and facilitates time for bonding with the newborn. Baby zebras use smell, sound, and sight to identify their mothers once they rejoin a family group or herd. 

Cape Mountain Zebra
Endangered Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra), Mountain Zebra National Park, South Africa. Facts about Zebras. Photo © Ecophoto

10. Why Do Zebras Kill Their Babies?

Males often kill babies sired by other males. This is to prove dominancy in a herd and to ensure the newborn doesn’t become a future rival. Killing a female’s baby also frees her to a potential mate.

11. Zebra Teeth Never Stop Growing

Zebras have teeth that never stop growing. Zebra teeth keep growing for their entire life because constant grazing wears them down. 

12. These Teeth Are Hard & Sharp

The Daily Mail reported an incredible moment in the Maasai Mara when a zebra sunk its teeth into a crocodile and it was able to escape the predator. 

13. So, The Only Purpose of Canines in a Zebra Is For Fighting?

Male zebras are the only ones that develop canines. They are only used for fighting. Males use their canines when biting and nipping at each other. 

14. What about Wolf Teeth?

Some zebras develop wolf teeth. These teeth are very small and don’t have any function whatsoever. In horses, wolf teeth are removed because they cause pain.

15. Can a Zebra Survive Without Water?

zebras drinking water
Facts about Zebras. Photo © Ricul

The zebra is a very resilient animal. It can survive for up to five days without water. When there is no grass, a zebra will eat legumes.

16. Is Zebra Just a Fancy Word For Wild Horse?

That is the case. Zebras are wild horses residing in Africa. Unlike horses, their hind legs are shorter than their front legs.

17. So, What Do You Call a Group of Zebras?

You call it a dazzle. It is one of the most amazing sights that you can see especially if the zebras are in motion. Motion dazzle confuses predators especially when the zebras are moving quickly. 

18. So, Are Zebras Black with White Stripes or White with Black Stripes?

This a question that definitely cannot escape debate. The zebra has black skin; therefore, they are black. In zebras, melanin forms a white color which becomes their stripes. 

19. Think You Can Tame a Zebra, Think Twice?

It is impractical to tame a zebra. Although they belong to the horse family, they are hard to train and domesticate because of their unpredictable behavior. They can easily panic and escape. Zebras are also dangerous, aggressive, and wild. 

20. Zebra Stripes Are Not Just For Beauty

Yes, they look beautiful but they also serve other purposes. They are used to confuse predators which makes it hard to separate a single zebra from the herd. 

21. Stripes Might Be Part of a Cooling System

The contrast of light-absorbing black stripes and light-reflecting white stripes creates a cooling mechanism. Stripes can also defend against flies and biting insects.

22. Zebras Make Grass to Taste Better

This might sound strange but it is the case. Zebras aren’t fussy eaters. When they enter ungrazed lands, they will first eat the less nutritious, harder grass. After old grass is cleared, new tender grass grows. Fussier grazers like the wildebeest and Thompson’s gazelle will then come in and savor the good stuff.

23. So, A Zebra Can Run in a Straight Line?

Zebras can run in a straight line. However, when faced with a predator it makes sense to run in a zigzag fashion just like a suspect in a high-speed police chase. 

24. About 50% of Young Zebras Will Not See Maturity

They will be killed by predators. A baby zebra faces many challenges including predators, climate change, and habitat loss. Crocodiles threaten them at river crossings. 

25. Zebras Have Got Speed

You cannot outrun a zebra. They might not be as fast as horses, but their maximum speed of 40 mph is enough for them to outrun predators like lions.

26. Can a Zebra Live in a Jungle?

You cannot find zebras in jungles. Their preferred habitats are savannah woodlands, plains, and treeless grasslands. 

27. Zebras Are Predominantly Found In Africa’s Wild

To see a zebra in its natural habitat, you will need to take an African safari. In Australia, Europe, Asia, and the Americas, you can only see zebras in zoos. 

28. Do You Know That Zoo Zebras Live Longer Than Wild Zebras?

Looks like the best place for a zebra to live is the zoo but it will not enjoy the experience. A wild zebra can only live for around 25 years while a zoo zebra can live for up to 50 years. The wild has more challenges than life in a zoo.

29. So, a Zebra is Just a Zebra

It might look like the case. After all, how can you differentiate one zebra from another? However, there are three zebra species: Grevy zebras, mountain zebras, and plain zebras.

Grevy zebra in the Frankfurt zoo
Grevy zebra in the Frankfurt zoo. Facts about Zebras. Photo © Denise Serra

30. Different Zebra Species Have Different Stripe Types

They vary from wide to narrow. The farther south on the African continent you travel, the wide the stripes get. 

31. The Grevy Zebra is More Donkey Than a Horse & It is Endangered

They are fewer than 2500 Grevy zebras left in the world. They are the largest members of the equid family and weigh up to 990 pounds. They are named after Jules Grevy who discovered them in Ethiopia and Kenya. They have big ears and narrower stripes. Their head-body measures between 2.5 and 2.75 meters. Its tail can be up to 75 cm long and stands between 1.45 and 1.6 meters high.

32. Who is Marty the Zebra in Madagascar?

The role of Marty the Zebra in the animation ‘Madagascar’ was played by Chris Rock. In the production, Marty is a plains zebra. 

Plains or Burchells zebra, Equus quagga
Plains or Burchells zebra, Equus quagga. Facts about Zebras. Photo © Mikelane45

33. Which Other Movies Have Featured Zebras?

Zebras are prevalent in pop culture. Movies like Lion King and Khumba have featured zebras. The greatest zebra movie characters of all time include Zebstrika, Stripes, Khumba, Marty, Zecora, Yipes the Zebra, and Ray Razzle.

34. As Many as 10,000 Zebras Make Part of The Spectacular Migration from The Maasai Mara to Serengeti

Every year, 10,000 plain zebras can be seen migrating together in congregated herds towards the Serengeti. They face the danger of being attacked by crocodiles as they cross the Mara River.

35. Zebras Can Travel For Up To 1,800 Miles in Search of Food and Water

It has been documented that plains zebras traveled 150 kilometers from Namibia to Botswana. This holds the record as the longest land migration of animals in Africa.

36. Zebras Are Good at Grooming

Grooming is used to strengthen social bonds. It involves scratching and biting along the back, neck, and lips. Grooming also makes zebras less aggressive. It can be between a mare and a young zebra or a mare and a stallion. 

37. Are There Golden Zebras?

They are rare but they do exist. They have abnormal pigmentation that makes them have white skin with golden stripes. They lack melanin which produces dark pigmentation. 

38. Zebras Can Bray Like a Donkey

It all starts with a growl and ends with a high squeal. When a predator is sported, a plains zebra will make a barking sound that resembles that of a dog.

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