Zebra – Equus burchelli

Characteristic horse of the African plains, the Burchell’s Zebra is the only zebra species where the black stripes extend onto the stomach.



They range widely in east and southern Africa with the largest concentrations of animal (around half-a-million) in East Africa.

Social Structure
Small family groups with a dominant male. Males fight viciously over females, kicking and biting. Males without a harem move alone or in bachelor groups. Zebra move with other herding species such as wildebeest, their movement is dictated by environmental conditions.

Range differentiation
The east African zebra move over a wider range than the southern African group as they join the wildebeest on their migrations across the Serengeti and Masai Mara.

The southern African group has a shadow brown stripe within their white coloring that is absent from the east African group. The reason for this remains unknown.

Grassland and woodland savanna.

Zebra are grazers but will browse at times. They will eat the coarser parts of the grass, allowing wildebeest to get to the softer parts.

A foal is born after a gestation period of twelve months. For the first days following birth the mother will shield the newborn from the other zebra.

This behaviour has been explained as a result of the mothers desire to imprint her patterns into the newborn foal’s mind.

Zebra show a dominance in their ranks and will not hesitate to take action against intruders.

Zebra will use elevated areas to check for danger.

Large herd of Zebra
Zebras will gather in large herds when moving to new areas in search of food.

Zebra patterns are unique to a particular animal. It’s most likely for this very reason that a mother will shield her young one from members on the herd. Thus, the mother first allows her patterns to be imprinted on the foal’s memory before exposing them to the others.

Why do you never see a thin zebra? How do we know when a zebra is sick?

It’s true that a thin zebra is seldom, if ever, observed. The reason for this is that the zebra has parasites in its stomach that can break down most food that it eats. This allows the zebra to utilize all the nutrients present in the food that it eats.

It’s said that when a zebra is sick its mane will lie limp on its neck. It cannot be ascertained from this what the illness is however.

Each individual zebra in all species has a unique patterning (the same natural principle as human fingerprints).

The southern African plain’s zebra has a ‘shadow’ brown stripe within its white colouring. This brown ‘shadow’ does not exist on the east African zebra. The extinct quagga that was found in South Africa, known to be a sub-species of the plain’s zebra, only had stripes on its head and had a brown body.

Could the above mean that southern African zebra needed brown in their colouring for some reason which was not necessary in East Africa?

When first born a young foal will stay close to its mother to imprint her patterning.

It was once thought that zebra avoided water but they will regularly take to it when necessary.