Zebra | Exploring the World of Wildlife: facts about the Zebra

A zebra is an animal belonging to the horse genus. There are also hybrid forms of such animals. A hybrid of a zebra and a domestic horse is called a zebroid, and a hybrid of a zebra and a donkey is called a zebrula.

Fact number one.

In the wild, individuals live up to twenty-five years. In captivity, this animal can live twice as long. The maximum speed a zebra can reach is fifty-five kilometres per hour. However, in the case of a chase, the emphasis is not on speed, but on maneuverability. Animals running away from the enemy do not follow a straight line, so convenient for predators. The zebras move from side to side and zigzag. This is very disconcerting for attackers.

Fact number two.

Zebras are medium-sized mammals, no more than two metres long. The average adult weighs about three hundred and twenty kilograms. The tail is about fifty centimetres long. Generally, males are larger than females, so their height at the withers is within one and a half metres. The body of the zebra is quite compact and stocky, with relatively short limbs, but the hooves are powerful and well developed. The males have canines that help them defend the herd from natural enemies. The neck is quite strong and muscular, but the males have a thicker neck.

Fact number three.

Each foal is born with its own unique, individual pattern of dark stripes. The cubs recognise their mother solely by their individual colouration. The colouring of the zebra is peculiar: on the neck and head, black stripes are arranged vertically, while the rest of the body is decorated with the same stripes, arranged at an angle. The limbs are decorated with the same stripes, placed horizontally. It is believed that the coloration is intended to protect from tsetse flies and horseflies.

Fact number four.

The zebra is an unpaired hoofed animal, whose diet consists of plant food. Adult animals prefer to eat green but short grasses, which grow close to the ground. It should be noted that the diet largely depends on the species, as well as on habitat conditions. Desert zebras have to eat rather coarse vegetation, which many members of the equine family do not eat, as it is not digested by them. The diet of the mountain zebra consists of motley grass, which, like a carpet, covers mountain slopes. Their diet includes forage items, such as buds and young shoots, shoots of maize, root parts of plants, and fruits.

Fact number five.

The zebra has a very developed sense of family. Some individuals can form lifelong alliances. Although there may be thousands of animals in a herd, they are all divided into small families.

Fact number six.

Male zebras are ready to breed after three years of life and females after two years. The ability to breed, regardless of species, lasts until eighteen years of age. The breeding process in these animals begins in late spring and early summer. This period is characterised by females beginning to spread their hind limbs and tails to the side, which is a sign that the females are ready for breeding. Females nurture their future offspring for a year, so the moment the cubs are born may coincide with the gestation period. Scientists have found out that about a week after giving birth, a female may become pregnant again, but the offspring do not appear until the following year.

Fact number seven.

If it is necessary to protect its young, the zebra stands on its haunches like a horse. It bites and lunges painfully, effectively fending off various predators. During their migrations, zebras are attacked by large predators such as lions, cheetahs and leopards. When animals appear at a waterhole, they can be attacked by crocodiles. The cubs can fall prey to hyenas. Up to a year old, foals are vulnerable to attack by predators and various diseases. By the age of one year, about fifty percent of offspring survive.

Fact number eight.

Zebras differ in that they are quite curious animals, and their curiosity can lead to tragedy. The animals prefer to band together in numerous groups. Each male has his own «harem», which includes several females with their litter. The male bravely guards his family from any encroachment. Each herd numbers up to fifty, though this is not the limit, there are even more numerous herds.

Fact number nine.

There are currently three species of striped horses in Africa: the Plains Horse, the Highland Horse and the Grevy Horse. The latter two are endangered and listed in the Red List. Flatheads are not rare, but their population has declined dramatically over the last hundred years.

Fact number ten.

The zebra is the only striped animal that represents equids. Scientists have successfully proved for a hundred years that flies almost never land on a striped surface. In 2014, serious confirmation of this fact emerged. Scientists proved that the more gadflies (bloodsuckers) in a zebra’s habitat, the more contrasting their striping. As for other theories, these have not been experimentally or scientifically confirmed.

International Zebra Day is observed around the world on 31 January each year. This day was established to promote the conservation of these unique animals.

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