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 include 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 foals
There are 3 main species: Plains Zebra, Mountain Zebra, and Grevy’s Zebra.
What do Zebra’s Look Like?
Zebra look similar to donkeys. They are most recognizable for their stripes. A zebra’s coat has smooth, short hair and is covered in black and white stripes. A zebra does not have stripes across their 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.
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 have V-shaped striped pattern. They have about 52 stripes on their coats.
A plains zebra can be 4.6 ft tall and weight 700 pounds.
The average lifespan for a plains zebra is 25 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity.
The scientific name for a Mountain Zebra is Equus Zebra.
There are two types of mountain zebras: The Hartmann and the Cape.
The mountain zebras have narrow stripes in the front 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 country of Namibia, South Africa, and Angola. They have the ability to run on uneven ground 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.
The scientific name for a Grevy’s Zebra is Equus Grevyi. Grevy’s zebras are 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 a short thick neck. They have about 160 stripes on their coats. The most stripes of any zebra.
They are the largest species of zebra. Grevy’s zebra are 4 ft to 5.3 ft tall and weigh between 770-990 pounds.
What do Zebras eat?
Zebras are herbivores. Herbivores are animals that eat plants. Zebras eat mostly grasses but sometimes they will eat shrubs, herbs, twigs, and leaves.
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 zebra’s have the exact same stripes.
Zebras sleep while standing up.
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. Nomadic means 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 nibbles on the backs and necks of other zebra in the herd. This is to love and strength within family bonds.
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 by helping them stay clean and 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.
A mare has a baby every 2-3years 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.
After about 20 minutes after birth foals are able to stand. They are 3ft tall at birth. They learn to run only after 2 hours of being born. Foals are born with brown stripes.
For the first few days of the zebra’s life, it will live separate from other members of the herd/band. They will stay with their mother so that they can learn their mother’s specific stripe pattern, her voice, and her mother’s scent. This is known as imprinting. It is important that the baby zebra learn to recognize his or her mother to stay safe.
A foal will live solely off of their mother’s milk first the first week of life. After a week the foal will start to eat some grass however it’s 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.
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 will work. 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 does a zebra have stripes. This question makes zebra the subjects for 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.” There are many Pourquoi stories that explain how or why zebras have stripes.
There is a story from the African nation of Namibia that talks about how zebras got stripes. The story talks about how a zebra and a baboon got into a fight watching a watering hole. In the story, the zebra kicks the baboon causing the baboon to scrape his bottom across some rocks. The zebra tripped over the baboon’s campfire and ends up falling onto the burning sticks in the fire. 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.
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 keeps 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. The zebras black and white stripes symbolize the equality of people of all colors in Botswana.
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.
Zebras by Melissa Gish
Zebras by Melissa Cole