Amazing Zebra Facts for Kids

Discover Amazing Zebra Secrets: Fun Facts for Kids and Freebies

Hey kids!  Did you know that there are three species of zebra or that zebra are herbivores? To learn more fun facts about zebras, check out these amazing zebra facts for kids.

Amazing Zebra Facts for Kids

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What is a Zebra?

Zebras belong to the Equidae family, which is a family of mammals that includes horses, zebras, and donkeys. 

Zebras are ungulates. Ungulates are hoofed animals.  An animal hoof is a hard area that protects the animal’s toes.  It is made out of a hard protein called keratin.  Our nails and hair are also made out of keratin.

A male zebra is called a stallion. The female zebra is called a mare. A baby zebra is called a calf or foal.

There are 3 main species: Plains Zebra, Mountain Zebra, and Grevy’s Zebra.

Stripped Zebra standing still.

What do Zebras Look Like?

Zebras look similar to donkeys.  They are most recognizable for their stripes.  A zebra’s coat has smooth, short hair covered in black and white stripes.  A zebra does not have stripes across its belly; it is just white. No two zebras have the same pattern of stripes; each zebra has its own unique pattern.

They have brown hair that starts at the top of their heads and runs down their necks.

Zebras have two ears that point out from the sides of their heads.  They have two eyes, a nose, and a mouth full of teeth.

Plains Zebra

The plains zebra is also known as the common zebra.  This is because it is the most common type of zebra. The scientific name for a Plains Zebra is Equu Quagga.

The plains zebra live in the plains and grasslands of Ethiopia to South Africa.

The Plains zebra has a V-shaped striped pattern. They have about 52 stripes on their coats. 

A Plains zebra can be 4.6 ft tall and weigh 700 pounds.

The average lifespan for a plains zebra is 25 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity.

Zebra on a mountain.

Mountain Zebra

The scientific name for a Mountain Zebra is Equus Zebra.

There are two types of mountain zebras: The Hartmann and the Cape.

Mountain zebras have narrow stripes in the front, and the stripes get wider as they move toward the back. They have the widest stipes of any zebra species. They have about 110 stripes on their coats.

Mountain zebras live in the mountainous countries of Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. They have the ability to run on uneven ground and are good rock climbers.

They have short legs and stocky bodies.

Mountain zebras are between 4 ft and 4.5 ft tall and weigh between 570-600 pounds. They are the smallest of the zebra species.

Grevy’s Zebra

The scientific name for a Grevy’s Zebra is Equus Grevyi. Grevy’s zebras are an endangered species. 

Grevy’s zebras are the oldest type of zebra.

They live in the grasslands of Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, and northern Kenya.

Grevy’s zebras have short, thick necks. They have about 160 stripes on their coats.  The most stripes of any zebra.

They are the largest species of zebra. Grevy’s zebras are 4 ft to 5.3 ft tall and weigh between 770 and 990 pounds.

zebra drinking water

What do Zebras eat?

Zebras are herbivores.  Herbivores are animals that eat plants. Zebras eat mostly grasses, but they will also eat shrubs, herbs, twigs, and leaves.

Zebra Characteristics 

Zebras have excellent eyesight and hearing. They can swim but will usually avoid swimming unless absolutely necessary.

They can run 40 miles per hour.

A baby zebra can run one hour after they are born.

Like a human’s fingerprints, no two zebras have the exact same stripes. 

Zebras sleep while standing up.

Social Animals 

Zebras are very social animals.  They live in groups called herds, bands, or harems. 

During different times of the year, different herds join together to form larger herds. 

These herds can include 200 or more zebras.  Sometimes reaching up to 1,000.

Plains and mountain zebra herds are nomadic, meaning that they roam from place to place. Grevy’s zebras are more territorial and live in an established area.

Sometimes, zebras will use their front teeth and lips to nibble on the backs and necks of other zebra in the herd.  This is to love and strength within family bonds.

Zebra Friends 

Zebras have a special bond with a bird called the oxpecker.  An oxpecker is a small grayish-brown bird.  There are two species of the oxpecker.  One species has a red beak, and the other species has an orange beak.

The oxpecker helps the zebra stay clean and provides wound care.  The oxpecker helps the zebra stay clean by eating parasites off the zebra. 

They help with wound care by eating the tiny insects that sneak into a zebra’s open wounds. 

Eating the tiny insects helps keep the zebra free from infection and also helps speed up the healing process.

Amazing Zebra Facts for Kids
Mommy and Baby Zebra

Baby Zebras 

A mare has a baby every 2-3 years until she turns 24.  A mother zebra is usually pregnant for 12-13 months.  A mare gives birth to her foal while lying on her side. 

Zebras give birth to one foal.  The size of the foul depends on the type of zebra it is. 

Mountain zebras are around 55 pounds at birth.  Plains zebras are around 70 pounds at birth, and Grevy’s zebra are around 88 pounds.

Foals are able to stand about 20 minutes after birth. They are 3 feet tall at birth. They learn to run only after 2 hours of being born. Foals are born with brown stripes.

Baby Zebra

For the first few days of the zebra’s life, it will live separately from other members of the herd/band.  They will stay with their mother to learn their mother’s specific stripe pattern, her voice, and her mother’s scent. 

This is known as imprinting. To stay safe, the baby zebra must learn to recognize its mother.

A foal will live solely off of its mother’s milk in the first week of life. 

After a week, the foal will start to eat some grass; however, its main food source will still be their mother’s milk.  They will continue to have their mother’s milk for up to 10 months.

A mother zebra cleans her baby foal by licking it.  This not only keeps the foal clean but it also helps increase the foal’s circulation and removes any smells that may attract predators.

Zebras will continue to live with their mothers for two years.  After two years, they leave to join other bands or herds of zebras.

Mountain Zebra jumping.

Zebra Predators 

Predators to zebras include lions, cheetahs, hyenas, and leopards.  When a zebra is being chased by a predator it will run side to side as a plan to throw off the predator and get away.

As mentioned before zebras can run 40 miles per hour, lions can also run that fast.  When being chased, zebras will use their powerful back legs to kick their attackers in efforts to get away. 

When a member of the zebra herd is being attacked, other members of the herd do not run away.  Instead, they form a circle around the predator to help the zebra that is being attacked. Forming the circle provides a form of camouflage. 

The predator has trouble picking out one zebra in the sea of stripes. Sometimes, this method works, but other times, it is too late to help the attacked zebra.

African Storytelling and Symbols

Zebras have been used in African storytelling for centuries.  People always wondered why or how a zebra has stripes.  This curiosity has made zebras the subject of Pourquoi stories. 

Pourquoi are stories that explain why something in nature is the way it is. 

The word Pourquoi is French for the question “why.”  Many Pourquoi stories explain how or why zebras have stripes.

There is a story from the African nation of Namibia about how zebras got stripes. The story describes how a zebra and a baboon got into a fight while watching a watering hole. 

In the story, the zebra kicks the baboon, causing it to scrape its bottom across some rocks. The zebra then tripped over the baboon’s campfire and fell onto the burning sticks.   

The story explains that because the baboon scraped his bottom on the rocks, it has a bare, red butt, and because the zebra fell into the fire, it has black stripes across its body. 

African Symbol

In some cultures, the zebra is a symbol of beauty and speed. The Karamojong people of Uganda paint stripes on their faces and use the zebra’s tail as part of traditional regalia (formal clothing) used in ceremonies and dances.

The Dan people along the African Ivory Coast once wore wooden masks that were carved and painted to look like zebras during hunting celebrations to symbolize the desire for the speed that the zebra has.

Today, in places such as Ghana, people still wear zebra masks to keep evil spirits away.

In 1966, the Botswana coat of arms or national symbol became a shield with two zebras, one on each side. The zebras represent the importance of wildlife, and their black and white stripes symbolize the equality of people of all colors in Botswana.

Unsuccessful Domestication

In the third century, Romans captured zebras and tried to train them to pull carts and chariots.  They did not realize that zebras can have a temper and be hard to train.  Still, the Europeans tried to train and domesticate these animals and have them work on farms.

The Europeans were unsuccessfully in domesticating the animals.  Eventually, they realized that the zebra belonged in the wild and they stopped capturing them.

Zebra Worksheets and Coloring Pages

References:

Zebras       by Melissa Gish

Zebras        by Melissa Cole