The zebra, wild horse with white and black stripes

Of their common ancestor (the Hyracotherium), the zebra inherited a horse-like silhouette. If it is distinguished by its striped dress, the African mammal has another fundamental difference: its temperament indomitable. Close-up on an equine which refuses domestication.

The zebra is a striped horse

The zebra belongs to the order of the perissodactyls which includes the ungulates with one finger. Member of the family of equines, he neighs, wears hooves, a mane, stands on long, slender legs equipped with a joint locking system allowing him to doze off while standing. In reality, the zebra has everything of a horse with two exceptions: its striped coat and its character. rebellious. All attempts at domestication of the zebra have indeed failed. With a lot of dodges, kicks, bites, hoof blows (which can break a lion’s jaw), this animal forbids anyone to lasso or lasso it. harness.

Three species of zebra

Zebras live exclusively in Africa where three main species are identified:

  • Grévy’s zebra (Equus grevyi), nicknamed the Imperial Zebra, is the largest of all wild equines. It measures 2.5 to 3 m long, 1.30 to 1.60 m at the withers, up to 1.90 m in height and weighs around 400 kg. The mammal is distinguished from other species by the finesse stripes that dot her entire body except for the all-white belly. He lives mainly in Ethiopia and Kenya where he frequents the plains semi-arid, savannas and bushes;
  • Burchell’s zebra (Equus burchelli) or plains zebra has broad stripes that meet under the belly in a horizontal line. With his short ears and erect mane, he is the one whose silhouette most closely resembles that of the horse. The equine is 2.20 to 2.50 m long and weighs up to 320 kg. It is found in East Africa (from southern Sudan and Ethiopia to eastern South Africa) in the savannah, steppes, forests and scrub;
  • The mountain zebra (Equus zebra) or Hartmann’s zebra, has a white belly and is distinguished by a striped pattern at halfway between that of the wide-banded Burchell’s zebra and that of the thin-banded Grevy’s zebra. Measuring 2 to 2.20m long and weighing up to 200kg, it looks more like a mule with its massive head and large ears. His heart, bigger than that of his cousins, allows him to live at high altitudes (up to 2000 m) where oxygen is scarce. The animal is found in mountainous areas, on the highlands and rocky terrain of South Africa, Namibia and Angola.

The stripes, identity card of the zebra

Zebras are easily recognized by their black and white stripes that characterize their coat ras : there are 43 in the mountain zebra, between 25 and 30 in that of Burchell and 80 for the species of Grévy. Why do these equines have welts? Scientists advance four hypotheses main:

  • The bands camouflage or interfere with the vision of predators by creating a blur effect when the zebra moves;
  • They keep insects and others away parasites exteriors who prefer to rest on uniform surfaces;
  • They facilitate thermoregulation thanks to the contrast between the black stripes which attract heat and the white ones which reflect the light;
  • They are used for recognition individuals among themselves and as such play an important social role.

In all cases, the scratches act like fingerprints or a DNAwhose characteristics make each zebra unique.

Zebra: 100% vegetarian

Herbivore , the zebra feeds mainly on grasses, plants, leaves, grasses, young shoots, bark or even buds which it seizes with its sharp incisors then crushes with its cheek teeth. To assimilate the celluloseplant of its food, its digestive system is home to bacteria that break down and synthesize this cellulose. The equine drink once a day in the dry season and preferably lives near a water point .

The zebra family united for life

The zebra is an animal gregarious who lives in small family groups led by a stallion with several mares and cubs, from birth to the age of two. Adults often stay together until death and enjoy each other groom between them in order to strengthen ties. The Grévy’s zebra is differentiated by its behavior social : he does not live in a harem and binds a short time with his congeners. He established himself in a territory to which he prohibited access to other males, not hesitating to beatif necessary.

Zebras united in the face of predators

Through his ears mobile, the zebra has very fine hearing. With implant eyes lateral, it has excellent vision that allows it to quickly detect a threat. This swift animal can run up to 65 km / h and be very aggressive. Its main defense weapon relies on a powerful hoof blow which, inflicted in the head, can seriously injure an animal or even kill it. kill . Groups of zebras tend to congregate to form large herds which migrate in the company of wildebeest and antelopes to strengthen their protection against predators. Themutual aid is often practiced by equines which alert their congeners of danger with a call and can circlethe enemy to intimidate him.

No inbreeding in zebras

The breeding season extends from spring to summer. After a year of gestation, the female gives birth to a zebra or a zebra of black color (the stripes appear later). In a quarter of an hour, the newborn will be able to get up and follow its mother after two o’clock. During the first days, the mare keeps her offspring at a distance from all other congeners, including the father. It is only around the tenth day that the foal can get to know the other members of the herd. At two years old, the puberty , the young male joins a group of singles, before attempting to found his own family, around the age of 4 or 5 years. As for the female, she is chosen by a stallion of which she integrates the family unit. This separationpreserves zebras from the phenomenon of inbreeding.

The zebra, prey of large carnivores

This African equine is one of the favorite prey of Lions, hyenas, wild dogs, cheetahs and leopards. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies the mountain zebra as “vulnerable”, its plains cousin as “near threatened” and Grevy’s zebra “in danger ”. The population of this species has indeed decreased considerably with the progressive loss of its habitatnatural (urbanization, overgrazing). Zebras can live 25 to 30 years in the wild and 40 years in captivity.

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