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Zebras

Grévy's Zebra

Grévy's zebra is quite different in both appearance and behavior from the common zebra. It stands close to 5 ft (1.5 m) tall at the shoulder and weighs about 850 lb (400 kg). Its stripes are very narrow, do not cross over the lower back as they do in the Cape mountain zebra.

Grévy's zebras live in semidesert country and do not form herds. Instead, only the mother foals remain together, while the males and the young females drift off. Individual stallions have remarkably large breeding territories, and any female found within the territory belongs to the male. A stallion will tolerate other males in his territory only if they do not try to mate with the mares. The gestation period of the Grévy's zebra is 12 1/2 months, one month longer than other species of zebra.

The recently extinct zebra-like quagga (E. quagga) looked like a combination of wild ass and zebra and had a reddish coat and stripes only on the head, neck, and shoulders. The name quagga is derived from the odd bray of this species, which was described as "kwa-ha." The quagga lived throughout South Africa but was killed by nineteenth-century settlers for its meat and hides. The last quagga died in an Amsterdam zoo in 1883.

The populations of the common zebra are high, especially in the Serengeti Plains of Tanzania and Kenya, where zebras run with the huge wildebeest herds on their annual migrations.

Grévy's zebra and the Cape mountain zebra are both endangered. There are probably fewer than 15,000 Grévy's zebras in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Kenya, in three separate populations. A major herd of Grévy's zebra is protected in a game reserve in Kenya. There are less than 200 Cape mountain zebras which live in Mountain Zebra National Park in South Africa, and this small number makes the long-term survival of this species doubtful.

Resources

Books

Arnold, Caroline. Zebra. New York: William Morrow & Co., 1987.

Duncan, P., ed. Zebras, Horses and Asses: An Action Plan for the Conservation of Wild Equids. Island Press, 1992.

MacDonald, David, and Sasha Norris, eds. Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File, 2001.

Scuro, Vincent. Wonders of Zebras. New York: Dodd, Mead And Co., 1983.

Stidworthy, John. Mammals: The Large Plant-Eaters. Encyclopedia of the Animal World. New York: Facts On File, 1988.

Willis, Terri. Serengeti Plain. Wonders of the World series. Austin, TX: Raintree Steck-Vaughan Publishers, 1994.

Zebras. Zoobooks. San Diego: Wildlife Education, Ltd., 1989.

KEY TERMS

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Dewlap

—A loose fold of skin that hangs from the neck.

Equid

—Any member of family Equidae, including horses, zebras, and asses.

Gestation

—The period of carrying developing offspring in the uterus after conception; pregnancy.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Well-being to Jan Łukasiewicz BiographyZebras - The Common Zebra, Mountain Zebras, Grévy's Zebra