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Zebras - The Common Zebra, Mountain Zebras, Grévy's Zebra

species stripes africa predators

Zebras are members of the horse family (Equidae) that inhabit tropical grasslands (savannas) in much of sub-Saharan Africa. Three of the seven species of equids are zebras. Zebras are herd-living social ungulates (hoofed mammals) recognized by a black-and-white (or cream or yellowish) striped coat, short erect mane, and a tail averaging about 18 in (0.5 m) long. The body length of a zebra is about 6-8.5 ft (2-2.6 m) long, and body weight can reach 770 lb (350 kg), with males slightly bigger than females.

There are three species and several subspecies of zebra. The common, Burchell's, or plains zebra (E. burchelli) lives throughout much of eastern and southern Africa, and is the best-studied species. Grévy's zebra (Equus grevyi) is found in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia, and is the largest of the wild horses, characterized by large ears, narrow stripes, and a thick neck. The third species is the mountain zebra (E. zebra) found in the hill country of Angola, Namibia, and western South Africa.

The stripes of the zebra camouflage the animal in the waving grasses of the African grasslands, especially at dusk and dawn. Zebras rest in herds in open ground where they can see predators approaching, rather than lying down in the grass. When a herd of zebras is being chased by predators such as lions or hyenas, their stripes make it difficult for predators to visually latch on to a specific animal to attack. Other suggestions are that the stripes identify individual zebras as part of a group and also initiates mating behavior.

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