Despite their appearance, zebras aren’t just black and white. They are sturdy, spirited animals that are a study in contrasts: willful and playful, social and standoffish, resilient and vulnerable. Their life in a herd can be complex, yet they also find safety in numbers. They are prey for predators, but they are by no means shrinking violets when it comes to defending themselves. Read between the lines, and you’ll discover that the world of the zebra is colorful indeed!
Zebras are equids, members of the horse family. They have excellent hearing and eyesight and can run at speeds of up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour). They also have a powerful kick that can cause serious injury to a predator, like a lion, a hyena, or an African wild dog. Usually the lead male of the herd, called a stallion, sounds the alarm if danger is spotted and stays at the back of the group to defend against predators if necessary, while the mares (females) and foals (youngsters) run away.
Zebras often trot when moving to new pastures, which is a fairly fast but easy gait for them to use over the long distances they may have to travel. Their hard hooves are designed to withstand the impact of their body weight and to run easily over rocky ground. When resting at night, zebras lie down while one stands watch to prevent an ambush.
Stripes: White with black or black with white? This is one of the most-asked questions about zebras. So what’s up with the stripes? Zebras are generally thought to have white coats with black (sometimes brown) stripes. That’s because if you look at most zebras, the stripes end on their belly and toward the inside of the legs, and the rest is all white. However (there had to be a catch, right?), some zebras are born with genetic variations that make them all black with white stripes, or mostly dark with the striped pattern on just part of their coats. And as it turns out, zebras have black skin underneath their hair. So it depends on how you look at it!