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Plains zebra

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Plains zebra
Plains Zebra Main Picture.jpg
Scientific Classification
Binomial Name

Equus quagga

The plains zebra is a species of zebra known by the scientific name Equus quagga. They are perhaps best known as the most abundant and attractive of Africa's grazing animals. They shows a large amount of diversity, and is currently separated into six subspecies based on features such as coat pattern, the presence of a mane, length of stripe coverage and body size. The plains zebra typically has relatively broad black stripes, which are vertical on the body, but become horizontal on the mane. The presence of horizontal stripes on the legs and behind is variable, with the extent of leg striping diminishing from the north to the south of the zebras' range.

In some populations there may also be faint brown shadow stripes between the main stripes. Various theories have been said to explain the function of zebra stripes, including distracting predators and temperature regulation, but the most believable theory is that they are a social function, coming close together and grooming behavior. Other methods of plains zebra communication include facial expressions, body movements, and sounds, such as a barking.

Body Design

Zebra stripes

Zebras are animals that live relatively long and move quickly for their large body size. They have teeth that are built for grinding and cropping their food. The Plains Zebra's main diet consists of grass. Zebras bodies resemble that of a horse, but their manes are covered with short hair that covers their entire body. Their tails are tufted at the tip and they have stripes on their coat. The Plains Zebra is built like a pony. Their coat can greatly vary in the number and size of their stripes. Their stripes create a disorderly coloration which goes around the outline of the body. At evening or at night, whenever their predators are most active, the zebra tricks the predator by blending into the distance. Their shiny white coat reflects about seventy percent of the heat that comes at it.[1]

Plains have relatively short legs and are medium-sized with thick bodies. Both male and female zebras are about 4.6 feet tall when they are standing at shoulders height. They are usually about 8 feet long when standing on all fours, and usually weigh about 645 lbs. when they are adults but males usually weigh 10% more than females do. All zebras are different. Not two zebras look exactly alike. They have big black and white stripes on the coat of their fur on the forepart of their body. The stripes run horizontally towards their mane. Plains zebras live in different places. The northern variety of Plains Zebra have smaller and more intricate stripes on their coat. Unlike the northern variety the southern population of Plains zebra tend to have less stripes under their body parts such as legs and their mane. Similar to most zebras, the Plains Zebra has very good hearing and vision which helps protect them from predators by detecting them earlier. They also have amazing taste which lets them sense a slight change in their food.[2]

Social behavior

A Plains zebra with its mother

Like most zebras, Plains zebras are social creatures. Even though they might live alone, they usually form little groups with other zebras that may consist of about five to twenty other zebras, which consists of a male leader, females zebras and their offspring. These zebras can either live their life without moving too much or live somewhat of a lazy lifestyle, or they can live their life undergoing periodic migration; their lifestyle is usually dependent on how much food they have. Where food is mostly plentiful throughout the year they live an unenergetic life. Whereas in seasonally dry areas, they form group a large group of zebras and go in search of food. As they stay together as a family group of zebras they migrate for about 500 miles per year.

Plains zebra greatly depend on water and never wander far away from their water source. They usually drink from waterholes as their water source at least once a day. It is usually the responsibility of the oldest female zebra to guide the family group as they go from place to place and also make sure they never wander far from their water source. because of their predators, Plains zebra are very noisy and and restless animals. They have a certain call that sounds somewhat like a frequent whiny bark that repeats itself. The sound of their whine sounds more like a donkey whining rather than the sound of a horse whining. At night one of the family members stays awake to look out for any predators while everyone else sleeps.[3]


Plains Zebra live in live in a lot of habitats in Africa starting from sea level all the way to Mount Kenya but they don't live in rain forests, deserts, dune forests, and Cape Sclerophyllous vegetation. Plains zebra usually selectively pick their food because they are picky eaters. The Serengeti Grogan’s (1973) research found out that another species of zebra (Pennisetum mezianum) was a preferred species by the Plains zebra. They compared how much they ate and to how much short grass was available to the Plains zebra and eventually figured out that there was a large amount of selection of the grass and rejection of the grass.

In some areas of the world that zebras are present in, where the zebras go usually is associated to where water is located. they usually move to areas during time of rain close to places with permanent rivers or pools or almost any body of water during the time of a dry season. The Serengeti migratory subpopulation comes together during the time of rain which usually spans from about November to May in the Serengeti plains. During the beginning period of a dry season which usually starts in June, the Plains zebra migrate to the western and northern parts of the Serengeti National Park and close by areas, and also into the Mara National Reserve in Kenya. [4]


The modern Plains Zebra Equus quagga of Southern and Eastern Africa is one of many Equids that are all descended from a common equine ancestor that was created on day six in the Creation Week. After the global Flood this common ancestor diverged into many new forms or species through adaptation to the fast changing environments. Equus mauritanicus (one of two new post-Flood forms of zebra, simply a larger version and ancestor of the modern Plains Zebra) inhabited large parts of Africa, including North Africa where the modern Plains Zebra no longer occurs.

With the encroachment of the Sahara Desert and the habitation of the Sahel by tribes with large herds of livestock the Plains Zebra decreased and later totally disappeared from North Africa. This decrease in distribution and the general aridification over much of their range caused the much larger Equus mauritanicus to decrease in size into the modern Plains Zebra.[5]


  1. Zebra African Wildlife Foundation. Accessed on February 12, 2013.
  2. Plains Zebra Animal Corner. Accessed on February 12, 2013.
  3. Zebra Woodland Park Zoo. Accessed on February 12, 2013.
  4. Hack, M.A & Lorenzen, E. Equus quagga IUCN Red List. Accessed on 28 February 2013.
  5. Skinner, J.D. & Chimimba, C.T. 2005. The Mammals of the Southern African Subregion. Cambridge University Press