The zebra is a type of animal best known for its characteristic
black and white stripes. It is closely related to the
horse and the donkey, but unlike its cousins, is not
well-suited to domestication, being capricious and sometimes
aggressive. There are three species of zebra: the plains
zebra, the mountain zebra, and Grevy's zebra. Between
these three species, there are a total of seven extant
subspecies of zebra.
The plains zebra is the most widely spread species
of zebra, having numerous subspecies and being found
throughout southern and eastern Africa. Its fragmented
range begins south of the Sahara in South Sudan and
extends to the south and the east into Malawi, Mozambique,
and Zambia, after which it enters most countries to
the south. The plains zebra has become extinct in Burundi
and Lesotho. It is nomadic and non-territorial, with
proximity to water being a high priority, as it depends
Because of its large range and population, the plains
zebra is known as the common zebra. It is also known
as Burchell's zebra, even though Burchell's zebra is
technically a subspecies of the plains zebra.
On average, the plains zebra is the smallest species
of zebra, with adults' measuring about six and a half
to eight feet in length, excluding a 20 inch-long tail,
and about three and a half to five feet in height at
the shoulders. The plains zebra can weigh between 385
and 850 pounds.
The plains zebra is a very social animal, living in
small, stable family groups containing one male, a number
of females, and their young offspring. Males without
mates form small bachelor groups. Unique to the plains
zebra is the tendency of its family or bachelor groups
to form herds, and for two individual groups to form
a subgroup within a herd.
The mountain zebra is a species of zebra found mostly
in hot, dry, mountainous terrain. There are two subspecies
of mountain zebra, one of which, Hartmann's zebra, inhabits
a fragmented range near the southwest coast of Africa,
and the other of which, the Cape zebra, occupies a fragmented
range towards the southernmost regions of Africa.
The mountain zebra is a threatened species, being considered
vulnerable by the IUCN. It is threatened most profoundly
by habitat loss and hunting.
A fully grown mountain zebra typically measures between
about three and a half and five feet in height and between
about seven and nine feet in length, excepting a tail
measuring 16 to 22 inches in length. An average adult
mountain zebra weighs 450 to 820 pounds.
Not unlike the plains zebra, the mountain zebra lives
in small family groups containing one male, between
one and five females, and their young offspring. Males
that do not have mates live in separate groups, and
older such males may attempt to remove females from
their family groups in order to establish their own
Grevy’s zebra is the most endangered species of zebra,
being considered endangered by the IUCN. Grvy's zebra,
named for a former French president, can be found predominantly
in northern Kenya, as well as in parts of Ethiopia and
possibly South Sudan. It has become extinct in Somalia
and Djibouti. Grevy's zebra inhabits barren terrains
and bushlands, needing some water but not depending
on it like the plains zebra does.
Grevy's zebra is the sole member of the taxonomic subgenus
dolichohippus, unlike its cousin species, which share
the subgenus hippotigris. There are no subspecies of
As the largest species of zebra, an adult Grevy's zebra
measures about eight to ten feet in length, excluding
a 15 to 30 inch-long tail, and about five feet in height
at the shoulders. It can weigh between 770 and 990 pounds.
Grevy's zebra is notable for its distinctly mule-like
features, which set it apart from the other two species
The social groups of Grevy's zebra are loose, fluid,
and non-hierarchical. Adult male Grevy's zebras occupy
and defend their own territories, while females and
immature males travel within large home ranges that
may overlap with males' territories. When other males
enter a territorial male's range, the territorial male
accepts their presence and may even seek other stallions'
company, except when a female receptive to mating is
in his territory. Outside a territory, several males
may compete for a female.