Most of us are familiar with the magnificent zebra, however there are actually three species of zebras alive today - the plains zebra, the Grévy's zebra and the mountain zebra. The plains zebra and the mountain zebra belong to the subgenus Hippotigris, but Grevy's zebra is the sole species of subgenus Dolichohippus.
It is the unique stripes of zebras make these animals among the most familiar to people. They occur in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, savannas, woodlands, thorny scrublands, mountains, and coastal hills. However, various factors have had a severe impact on zebra populations, in particular hunting for skins and habitat destruction. The Grevy's zebra and the mountain zebra are endangered, but the plains zebras are much more plentiful.
One subspecies, the quagga, went extinct in the late 19th century, though they have now been re-bred from zebra DNA.
What do Zebras eat?
Their digestive systems allow them to subsist on diets of lower nutritional quality than that necessary for other herbivores.
Typically, zebras seek green pastures. During the dry months of the year, they thrive on dry grass, but Zebras tend to remain in the proximity of water holes.
Zebras have a large appetite so they spend almost 60% of the time of their day eating. In zoos, they are fed hay, oats and alfalfa.
A zebra foal is brown and white instead of black and white at birth. Plains and mountain zebra foals are protected by their mothers, as well as the head stallion and the other mares in their group. Grevy's zebra foals have only their mother as a regular protector, since, as Grevy's zebra groups often disband after a few months.
Where do Zebras live?
Gestation is thirteen months, longer than any other equid. Once the foals are born, the mares stay within two kilometers (1.2 mi.) of water and are almost always with the territorial stallion. Foals do not drink water until they are three months olds and — unlike any other equid — are left in “kindergartens” frequently guarded by the territorial male while their mothers go to water.
The Chapman’s zebra or the Damara zebra (Equus burchelli antiquorum) is a subspecies of plains zebra occurring from Angola and Namibia across northern South Africa to Transvaal. It is characterized by a pattern of broad, dark stripes alternating with thin, light shadow-stripes. The stripes fade into the brownish color of the body on the hindquarters and are absent altogether on the legs.
Its basic body color was reddish-yellow. Burchell’s zebra existed from southern Botswana into the Orange Free State of South Africa.
As European settlement spread northward from the Cape to colonial Southern Rhodesia, this subspecies was hunted to extinction. The wild herds had disappeared by 1910, and the last known individual died in the Berlin Zoo in 1918.
The quagga disappeared from the wild by 1878, and the last zoo specimen died in 1883. All that remains today are nineteen pelts, a few skulls, three photographs and a few paintings.
The quagga was yellowish-brown with stripes that were confined to the head, neck and forebody. DNA from one of the pelts has been retrieved and analyzed, establishing that the quagga was, indeed, a variant of the plains zebra and not a separate species as previously believed. There is currently an experimental breeding program in progress in South Africa to try to reconstruct the quagga from the Chapman’s subspecies.
Mountain zebras never form the large herds characteristic of plains zebras, but do exhibit a harem-type social system. During the winter they move up to twenty kilometers (12 mi.) from a water source. Where they are hunted, they take their water at night. Where they are unmolested, they water at any time.
Two subspecies of mountain zebra are recognized - the Hartmann’s zebra and the Cape mountain zebra. The Hartmann’s zebra (Equus zebra hartmanni) occupies the rugged, broken terrain at the edge of the African Plateau east of the Namib Desert. Its habitat grades from an open woodland with a diverse, grassy understory in southern Angola and Namibia to the succulent steppe of the Karroo in South Africa.
Hartmann’s zebras have broad black stripes on an off-white body. The stripes extend down the legs to narrow hooves, but do not meet on the belly. These animals stand from 118 to 132 centimeters (46-52 in.) high. This subspecies seeks shade and rests during the hottest parts of the day and has been demonstrated to orient its body with respect to the sun. The vocalizations of the Hartmann’s zebra are similar to the neigh of a horse.
The Cape mountain zebra once inhabited all the mountain ranges of the southern Cape Province of South Africa, but by 1922, only 400 were believed to survive. To counteract the continued decline, Mountain Zebra National Park was established in 1937 on acacia veld near Cradock, South Africa, but its small population of Cape mountain zebra became extinct in 1950. That same year reintroductions from nearby remnant populations began. Eleven animals were donated from a nearby farm in 1950, and in 1964 another small herd was added. By the late 1960s, the total Cape mountain population was only 140 but grew to 200 by 1979, with 75 percent of the animals in Mountain Zebra National Park. In 1984, the population was back to 400 head. Since then a few zebras have been reintroduced to the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
What is the difference between a Zebra and a Horse?
Lets face it, a zebra looks like a sturdy, stripy horse. But there must be more to it than that. Why? Because modern horses are believed to have originated around southern/eastern Europe, while zebras are clearly from Africa.
So, what are the differences between horses and zebras?
The scientific name of a horse is Equus ferus caballus. It is a hoofed mammal and a sub-specie of the seven extant species of the Equidae family. Over the past 45 to 55 million years the horse has developed from a small multi toed creature to a large one toed animal. The domestication of horses started around 4000 BC.
Three species of zebras are in existence today, the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra and the Grevy’s Zebra. The Plains Zebra and the Mountain Zebra belongs to the subgenus Hippotigris while Grevy’s Zebra belong to the Dolichohippus species. This is similar to an ass while Plains and Mountain Zebras are quite close to horses.
Zebras don't have a hairy tail like a horse does and their mane always sticks straight up. Also, the grevvy's zebra is a little different because they've got a roman nose, and very large ears (not horse like at all). Also, the structure of a zebra is much more pony-like being half leg and half body in height. Most horses are longer in the leg than they are in body.
Zebras are found in a variety of locations like savannas, grasslands, woodlands, mountains, hills and scrub lands. Certain anthropogenic factors have affected the population of zebras. Hunting zebras for skins and destroying lands have affected zebra population. The Grevy’s and Mountains Zebra are considered as endangered species.
Apart form the size, shape and stripes, there are a number of distinguishing features between a horses and zebras.
1. The bone structure of both the animals is different. Zebras possess solid tails unlike a horses.
2. The anatomy of a horse makes them use speed to run away from predators. They have a well developed sense of balance, and a powerful fight or flight attitude inside them. Like horses, zebras walk, trot, canter and gallop. They are generally slower than horses, but their great stamina helps them outpace predators. When chased, a zebra will zig-zag from side to side, making it more difficult for the predator. When cornered, the zebra will rear up and kick or bite its attacker.
3. Zebras have excellent eyesight. It is believed that they can see in color. Zebras also have night vision, although not as advanced as that of most of their predators.
Zebras have excellent hearing, and tend to have larger, rounder ears than horses. Like horses and other ungulates, zebra can turn their ears in almost any direction. In addition to eyesight and hearing, zebras have an acute sense of smell and taste.
4. Female zebras mature earlier than the males, and a mare may have her first foal by the age of three. Males are not able to breed until the age of five or six. Mares may give birth to one foal every twelve months. She nurses the foal for up to a year. Like horses, zebras are able to stand, walk and suckle shortly after they are born. A zebra foal is brown and white instead of black and white at birth.
Horses, particularly colts, sometimes are physically capable of reproduction at about 18 months, but domesticated horses are rarely allowed to breed before the age of three, especially females. Horses four years old are considered mature, although the skeleton normally continues to develop until the age of six; maturation also depends on the horse's size, breed, sex, and quality of care.
CAN ZEBRAS BREED WITH HORSES?
Unfortunately the differences between zebras and horses can merge as zebras will readily breed with horses, donkeys, wild asses etc.to produce a foil known as a zebroid.
A zebroid is the generic name for all zebra hybrids. The different hybrids are generally named using the portmanteau convention of sire's name + the dam's name. There is generally no distinction made as to which zebra species is used. It has been found that when zebras are crossbred, they often develop some form of dwarfism. Breeding of different branches of the equine family, which does not occur in the wild, generally results in infertile offspring. The combination of sire and dam will also affects the offspring.
A zorse is the offspring of a male zebra and a female horse. This cross is also called a zebrula, zebrule, zebra mule or golden zebra. The rarer reverse pairing is sometimes called a horbra, hebra, zebrinny or zebret. Like most other animal hybrids, the zorse is sterile.
A zony is the offspring of a zebra stallion and a pony mare. Medium-sized pony mares are preferred to produce riding zonies, but zebras have been crossed with smaller pony breeds such as the Shetland, resulting in so-called "Zetlands
A zonkey is a cross between a zebra and a donkey, although 'zonkey' is not the technically correct name for such a cross. The most commonly accepted terms are zebonkey (or zebronkey), zebrinny, zebrula, zebrass, and zedonk (or zeedonk). Another name that is sometimes used is "zebadonk". Donkeys are closely related to zebras and both animals belong to the horse family. Zonkeys are very rare. In South Africa, they occur where zebras and donkeys are found in proximity to each other. Like mules, however, they are generally genetically unable to breed, due to an odd number of chromosomes disrupting meiosis.
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Based on an article from http://www.imh.org/index.php?option=com_flexicontent&view=items&cid=192:breeds-of-the-world-by-continent&id=2209:zebra&Itemid=193
Images care of http://nature.ca/notebooks/english/zebra_p9.htm and http://animal.discovery.com/mammals/zebra/ and http://www.wild-about-you.com/GameburchellZebra.htm and http://media1.mweb.co.za/quaggaproject/news.htm and Mountain Zebras and http://exoticanimallover.com/2007/09/hartmanns-mountain-zebras-endangered-species/ and http://www.cites.org/gallery/species/mammal/cape_mountain_zebra.html and http://www.adventurecampstz.com/PHOTOGALLERIES/Ruaha/Ruaha%20Other%20Animals/pages/65%20Zebra%20eating%20grass,%20Ruaha_jpg.htm and http://www.adventurecampstz.com/PHOTOGALLERIES/Ruaha/Ruaha%20Other%20Animals/pages/65%20Zebra%20eating%20grass,%20Ruaha_jpg.htm