Facts on Zebra
Latin name: Equus burchellii
Lifespan: Both the males and the females live up to 35 years of age.
Weight: 300 to 320 kg for both sexes.
The male and female are similar in size. The male’s genitals are not always visible, making it very difficult to see the difference. One clear difference is the black vertical stripe between the buttocks. The male has a very narrow stripe about 1 inch wide and the female has a stripe about 2 or 3 inches wide.
The collective name used for a group of zebras is called a “dazzle”. There are two different groupings that zebra live in. The first is the harem. A harem consists of 1dominant male, 5 or 10, sometimes more females and their young.
The second social grouping is the bachelor herd which varies in size from 3 individuals and up. The bachelor herd consists of only males which often follow the different harems around at a safe distance. Males will occasionally leave their bachelor herds to join up with the harem to challenge the dominant male for his females.
Fighting between the males involves a lot of kicking and biting until the one or the other gives up. Once the previous male is forced out the new dominant male will often kill all young foals that are still dependant on their mother’s milk by kicking and biting them too death.
The reason for the male doing this is that the females that are still suckling young will not be on “heat”, but soon after losing its youngster will be ready to mate with.
After a successful mating the female is pregnant for 12 months. After giving birth the newborn foal will be dependent on its mother’s milk for almost 1 year before totally weaning.
The females can give birth at any time of the year.
Diet & Feeding:
Zebras are grazers, often feedings along with wildebeest. Wildebeest prefer to feed of the shorter grasses whereas zebra prefer the longer grasses. After the zebra has chewed off the long grass tufts, the wildebeest will often follow after the zebra to chew off the shorter tufts left behind.
Many other herbivores such as giraffe, impala and even warthog can be seen feeding close to zebra. Besides also feeding off grass, this may be a form of safety as zebra have a very keen sense of smell, hearing, sight and are extremely alert of their surroundings which makes it rather difficult for predators to get close to them without been seen.
The more other animals there are, the safer it is for zebra as there is a lesser chance of a predator picking them out in a hunt.
The zebra’s closest relative:
Besides horses being direct relatives of zebra, the next close relative strange enough is the rhino. They have the same dentitional formula, a similar bone structure and at one stage in their lives had similar shaped feet, the rhino having more horse-like shaped feet.
It is rather difficult to see if a zebra is in a good condition or not as they always have round bellies as a result of all the gasses bloating their stomachs. When there is a shortage of grass or even a drought, zebra still look well fed with their large gas-filled bellies.
A clear sign of bad health is to look at the mane-hair on the zebra’s neck. If the mane-hair is stiff and upright, then the zebra is generally in good condition. If the mane-hair flops, then there might be something wrong with the animal. When a zebra falls ill it starts to lose the fat around its neck first. The fat in the neck holds the mane-hair up and if it burns away the mane starts to flop.
Domestication of zebra:
It is possible to domesticate zebra and through the years zebra have been used by farmers for pulling carts and farm machinery as well as for pulling coaches and carriages. It is also possible to ride zebra like one would ride a horse. It is not possible to race on a zebra as there would be a risk of breaking its back. The backs of most horses have a very deep arch making a comfortable fit for the saddle where as the zebra’s back is more level. The horse’s back bones are loser fitting into one another, makings its back more flexible to allow for more impact on the back while running fast. The zebra’s back bones are tighter fitting thus less flexible making it risky to ride hard without breaking its back.