The zebra is a large species of equine that is natively found roaming the grassy plains of sub-Saharan Africa. They are the largest and most distinctive wild horses with bodies that are patterned with white and black stripes, the exact placement of which is unique to each individual.
There are three different species of zebra that are found in Africa which are the Common Zebra (also known as the Plains Zebra and the Burchell’s Zebra), the Grevy’s Zebra (also known as the Imperial Zebra) and the Mountain Zebra. They are incredibly sociable animals that can travel vast distances in search of fresh grass and water but are severely threatened throughout much of their natural range due to increasing levels of human activity.
Today, both the Grevy’s Zebra and the Mountain Zebra are considered to be endangered species and although the common zebra is more widespread and numerous, there have been sharp population declines in certain areas. Zebras are heavy bodied animals that are perfectly designed for speed with their long and slender legs and narrow hooves helping them to reach speeds of 40 kph when running.
In the same way as horses, they only have a single toe on each foot which they walk on the tip of and is protected by their tough hooves. Their black and white stripes are unique to each individual and help them to identify each other when in the herd. Zebras have long necks and heads that mean they can easily reach the grass on the ground and a mane that extends from their forehead and along their back to the tail.
The pattern of their stripes varies between the species with Grevy’s and Mountain Zebras having narrower stripes and white undersides, while the common zebra has broad stripes that cover its entire body. The Grevy’s Zebra is not only the largest of the zebra species but is also easily identifiable by its large, rounded ears.
Keywords to learn
Hoof: The horny part of the foot of an ungulate animal, especially a horse or zebra.
Vital: Absolutely necessary; essential.
Hey Kids, my name is Zane the Zebra and I am very happy to meet you. Learn more about me and my species @ www.kids.nationalgeographic.com
Key Zebra Data
Lifespan:20 – 30 years.
Scientific Name:Equus zebra, Equus quagga, Equus grevyi.
Mass:220kg – 405kg (485 lbs – 893 lbs)
Length:2m – 2.75m (6.6ft – 9ft)
Region found:Eastern and Southern Africa.
Current population trend:Decreasing.
Sexual maturity:3 – 4 years.
You have walked over a ‘Zebra Crossing’ right. So, you know that that’s where it comes from. Zebra’s!! They are so beautiful, but so noticeable like a zebra crossing that they are very vulnerable in the wild to predators.
Now that you know more about the zebra by learning the key data above, be sure also to check out the fun facts. When you are finished learning the facts, try answering the questions in the Q&A corner on the bottom right side of the page.
Download questions about the zebra here: Zebra (answers are on this page)
Teachers. For more in depth work sheets on the zebra. Click on Kidskonnect Worksheets
Zebra Fun Facts for Kids
- # 1. The zebra is a relatively slow-developing mammal with females not being able to first breed until they are at least a few years old. After a gestation period that can last for between 10 months and a year, the female gives birth to a single foal that is born with its stripes, mane and also has a little patch of hair in the middle of its tummy.
- # 2. Zebra foals are able to stand within minutes of birth which is vital to ensure that they are able to run away to escape from predators. They are able to begin eating grass after a week and are weaned by the time they are 11 months old. Young Zebras remain with their mother until they are mature at around three years old when the males leave their natal herd to join an all-male bachelor group, while females stay with their mother. These bachelor groups begin to challenge the dominant stallions to try and take over the harem during the mating season.
- # 3. The stripes of the zebra remain a slight mystery to science even today as they were once thought to camouflage them into the natural light and shade of their surroundings to confuse predators, as once running as a herd, it is extremely difficult to remain focused on a single animal.
- # 4. As with other male horses, zebra stallions are known to curl their top lips up which is thought to heighten their sense of smell. This so-called “horse laugh” is thought to prove vital for the male to be able to detect when a female is ready to mate.
- # 5. In 2019, two out of the three zebra’s species are listed by the IUCN as animals that are endangered and therefore face extinction from their natural habitats in the future. The Grevy’s Zebra and the Mountain Zebra are found in increasingly isolated regions and their numbers continue to fall throughout their natural ranges. The common zebra is an animal that is listed as being near threatened by extinction in the wild and although they are still widespread and numbers appear to be relatively stable, they like the other species, are threatened by habitat loss throughout much of their natural range.
- # 1. How many species of zebra are there?
- # 2. Which species is the largest?
- # 3. What region are zebras found in?
- # 4. How long is a zebra’s gestation period?
- # 5. Why do zebras curl their top lip up?