July 8, 2013

Animal Profile: Zebra

Did you know that every zebra has its own unique set of stripes? It’s true. Their stripes are like fingerprints. No two patterns are alike. Scientists aren’t exactly sure why zebras have stripes, but most think that they are used to camouflage them from predators. When Zebras travel in herds their stripes make it hard for predators to zero in on a single animal. The stripes may also help zebras identify one another, as families tend to stick close together, even in large herds.


Early Europeans settling in Africa attempted to tame zebras just like horses, but it didn’t work out so well. Turns out zebras don’t appreciate being bossed around and they definitely don’t like to be ridden. Though I can’t blame them, I was still curious to know why zebras couldn’t be trained just like horses? To answer this question, author and scientist Jared Diamond points to Africa’s hostile environment. Zebras are prey in a land of hungry predators. They must be on constant alert, as lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs are always on the hunt. This daily struggle for survival, Mr. Diamond believes, makes zebras uneasy, easily agitated and potentially aggressive. In other words, not easily trainable.

Zebra facts:
Height: 3.5 to 5 feet at the shoulder
Weight: 450–900 pounds
Top speed: 35 mph
Zebras are herbivores, meaning they eat grass and leaves

IMG_3257_web_zebra During our safari in Botswana, we came across several large zebra herds. I remember being surprised to hear the unique sound a zebra makes. It’s a very distinct braying noise that to me sounded a lot like a high-pitched monkey. CLICK HERE and listen for yourself!

Seeing thousands of black and white stripes set against the Okavango horizon is a beautiful sight, to be sure.