Plains Zebra (Equus quagga)
Fun fact: The zebra symbolizes balance and individuality.
Body and Skeletal Structure:
Plains zebras are typically smaller than the other two species of zebra. They range from being 6.6 to 9 ft (2-2.75 m) in length. Height-wise, they’re usually around 3.3 to 4.9 ft (1-1.5 m). As for their weight, they range from about 386 to 992 lbs (175-450 kg), though males do tend to weigh 10% more than the females.
The plains zebra typically has relatively broad back stripes (though they can be a type of dark brown) against white skin that are vertical on the body, but become horizontal on the hindquarters. They also have a stripe that runs down the center of their backs onto the tail. Their stripes help them to identify each other in a herd (typically called a harem), and they cover its entire body. Although, it is also said that stripes might also be used to dazzle predators and regulate body temperature.
Fun Fact: No two zebras’ stripes are identical.
Plains zebras are herbivores, meaning they eat plants. Specifically though, they feed on shrubs, bark, roots, stems, leaves, twigs, red oat grass, and a variety of other grasses as well.
Plains zebras live to be about 20 to 30 years of age on average.
Mating Season: Essentially Year-Round
Gestation Period: About 10-13 months
Litter Size: Typically 1 foal (Twins are rare)
Communication and Behavior:
Plains zebras are highly sociable animals that roam around in herds (called harems) for protection from predators. A typical plains zebra herd consists of a male (called a stallion) several females (called mares), and their children. Sometimes, herds will often join with other families to form large herds, and their strong social bonds can make them very affectionate towards one another, often grooming each other using their teeth. Grooming actually shows social status and eases aggressive behavior. Also, if one zebra spots a predator, it lets out a sharp call. The young and female zebras run, while the males trail behind to defend them. If one is attacked, others will usually circle around it to help protect it from predators. During the mating season though, males will fight fiercely for the right to breed with the females, and they do so by rearing up on their back legs while kicking & biting one another. As for the mares, the alpha female is the first to mate with the stallion that won the right, and is the one who leads the group. When new mares are added to the group, they are usually met with hostility by the other females. Because of this, the stallion(s) must shield the new mares until the aggression subsides.
Fun Fact: During the rainy season in the Serengeti, aggregate herds of up to 10,000 individuals may form.
Zebras are always busy, alert, and very noisy. They make many sounds that signal different things. When they spots a predator, they will typically bark or whine loudly to warn the others in the herd and make the “yelping bark” as they all rush to escape. When mares are separated from their foals, they will typically make a “whinny” sounds as well. When warning for danger, they might also make a “nicker” sound. There are other sounds that zebras make, but this is just to name a few. Other methods that they use to communicate include facial expressions and body movements.
Fun Fact: Herds have been known to mingle with wildebeests, ostriches and antelope while they graze and sometimes even depend on them as additional protection against predators.
Fun Fact: Zebras sleep (with the assurance of their herd’s protection) while standing up.
Habitat and Range:
The plains zebra occupies grasslands, plains, and savanna woodlands. It is an adaptable species that is capable of surviving in areas with coarse vegetation with little nutritional value, although it needs to have access to water on a daily basis for drinking
The plains zebra is listed as a near threatened species, which is actually the most stable population of the three species of zebras. Also, like many animals, plains zebras are threatened by habitat loss, overhunting, and even with competition for food posed by livestock.