Spots N Stripes Ranch

How many different species and subspecies of zebra are there?

What do zebras eat?

Do all species of zebra have the same social structure?

What size variations are they.

Is the zebra black with white stripes or white with black stripes?

Grevy's Zebra: Equus grevyi (endangered)

Grevy's Zebra Stallion


Weight and Height - The Grevy's zebra is the largest of all the zebra species (breeds) The males weigh from 950 lb (430 kg), or more, and are 56-64 in tall (140-160 cm) 14 - 16 hands high. The females: weigh from 849 lb (386 kg), or more with a height of 56-64 in (140-160 cm) 14 - 16 hands high.

The Grevy's has a very symetrical, thin, vertically striped hair coat, with stripes all the way down the legs. It has a longer mane than the other species of zebra, which stands up. It's ears are twice as large as the other species of zebra, making their hearing sharper for listening for mating calls and location calls from other zebras. The Grevy's skin is thicker and more dense than a horse's skin, giving them more protection from predators, insects, and each other during social 'discussions'.

How The Grevy's Got Its Name

The Grevy's zebra was named after a former president of France, Jules Grvy, who recieved a Grevy's zebra from the King of Shoa and Emperor of Abyssinia in 1882, Menelik II.


Grevy's zebra are fairly sedentary animals, only traveling for feed, water and breeding, or to run from predators. If they have water and feed in the same area, they don't choose to travel, but prefer to enjoy their local area.


Grevy's live up to 25 years in the wild, but when protected can live up to 30 years or more.

Social Life

The Grevy's that live on the plains after the rains with much available lush pasturing, may consist of a stallion and several mares and their offspring. The stallion will fight unmercilessly to protect his mares and offspring. However,in the semi-desert areas they are less inclined to be 'herd' animals, and only come together at such times as for breeding or foaling, when a few mares will band together for protection of their young, and for socializing of the young, or when migrating for better feed and water, when perhaps 50 - 150 zebras may be seen in a localized area, but even then they travel in small groups, rather than large herds like the Burchelli's (Plains) zebras will do. Occasionally one will see a small number (2 - 6) of Grevy's bachelors (young stallions not yet mature enough to breed) together.

The young will stay with their mothers from 2 - 3 years.

The stallions, once sexually mature, will maintain a territory from one to five square miles (2.7 to 11 sq. km) where pasture is good and water is available. The stallions are very strong and protect their territory from invaders, both predators and other stallions.


The Grevy's zebra has a very deep, resonant bray, much like a cross between a pig and a lion, if you were to hear it. (wav. coming soon of Grevy's vocalization) This is because in the desert areas the mares and stallions rarely come together except for breeding, and this deep vocalization can carry a long distance to help locate mates. The Grevy's zebra has a vocalization unlike the other zebra species. In private ownership, Grevy's zebras will call at meal time, when another equine is walked by, when one of its friends or an offspring is separated from it, when it is loaded on a trailer, when it enters a new 'territory'. The call differs slightly from situation to situation, sometimes sounding insistent, sometimes questioning, there is an obvious 'location' vocalization, at times it sounds like an announcement and at other times alarmed.


Grevy's zebra's gestation is 12 - 13 months. Births are usually July to August, and mating is usually October and November in their natural environment. In captivity, they will mate year round, and foal year round, as migration is not an issue. Zebras will breed every 18 - 24 months, starting at the age of 3 - 4 for females, but the stallions do not breed until they are 5 at least, but usually not until they are 6 years old. In dry times, when the mares bodies are not in optimum condition, they may only foal every 3 years.


The lion and spotted hyena are about the only predators that can take on an adult Grevy's, with the foals being preyed upon more when given the choice. However, many mares are taken when there is not a stallion around to help protect them and their young.

Habitat - Locations

Grevy's zebra can be found only in the Somali Arid Zone located in Ethiopia, with a very few in Somalia and Kenya. The largest concentration lives in northern Kenya, however, it is estimated that in 2006 there are only approximately 2500 Grevy's left anywhere in the wild, due to their habitat being taken for farmland, and farmers killing many of them, as well as being hunted by overzealous trophy hunters. Also, their water supplies are consistently cut off by farmers fencing their land, which also separates stallions from mares in many instances. Since the late 1970's, when there were an estimated 15,000 Grevy's, there has been an 80% drop in their population, a species truly endangered of extinction in the wild.

Grevy's zebra can be found in the following National Parks and Reserves: Samburu-Isiolo NR, Meru and Sibiloi NP, Kenya.

The Grevy's doesn't like the desert as much as it likes areas with abundant water and grass, so will often follow the rains for fresh grass, such as the foothills of Mt. Kenya. The zebra smells water in the ground and will even dig holes where water has run to obtain it. During the dry season, Grevy's may travel 3.5 to 5 (6-8 km) daily between water and pastures. The Grevy's zebra will even eat shrubs and trees if they need to. They can go without water from 2 - 5 days, an adaptation to the semi-desert. However, mares that are nursing their young cannot go that long without water, needing water every day or two at the most. The foal survival rate decreases as the animals are forced to move greater distances for water. Less than 1/2 a percent of the Grevy's habitat is on protected land, making it difficult for the Grevy's zebras to survive human 'progress', but there are now many more people, universities, and communities involved in the preservation endeavours for the Grevy's.

Plains Zebra - Burchell's zebra, E. b. butchelli
SUBSPECIES Grant's or Boehm's zebra, E. b. boehmi
Selous' zebra, E. b. selousi
Chapman's zebra, E. b. antiquorum
Burchell's zebra, E. b. butchelli

The zebra Burchelli gets its name after the noted botanist, William Burchell in or around the year 1811. He went to the Cape and 'discovered' the zebras.

The Swahili people of Africa call the zebra 'punda milia'. In their language, this means striped donkey.

The South African quagga, now extinct, but preserved in museums around the world, had striping only on its head, neck, and back. It was a subspecies which was found in the temperate highveld and arid Karroo. Quagga is the Hottentot name which may have come from the vocalization of the zebra. There are efforts underway at this time to reproduce the Quagga using the least striped Chapman's found in Africa. It is almost successful at this time.


The Grant's zebra's contoured belly striping meets the ventral stripe (stripe running the center along the belly line from front to back) The males weight from 600 lb (265 kg) to 800 lb, and average from 48" tall to 56" tall. The females weight from 500 pounds (227 kg) to 800 pounds. The base color is from white to a light buff, and the Chapman (Damara) have fewer stripes, sometimes lacking any striping at all below the knees and hocks, and sometimes lacking any striping from the shoulders and hips down the legs, and often the belly striping ends before it starts to enter the underbelly. The striping becomes less and less, the more southern the habitat, where E. b. antiquotum and butchelli have unstriped lower legs and belly and shadow stripes between black body striping. When these zebras are born (foaled), they often have brown tipped striping on the back half of the body and sometimes on the entire body. Some zebras maintain some of the brown tone in their striping throughout their lives.


The Plains zebras may live up to 25 years in the wild. In private ownership they may live to 30 years or more.


The zebras are more active during the day, but occasionally graze during the night, though more settled in the dark. There are always one or two standing on guard in each kinship group to announce preditors, whether at night or during the daylight hours. The adult zebras are quite sedentary, only moving to change pasture, go to water, or when running from predators, except for the foals and often the bachelor groups, who spend much time practising their flight/fight skills.


The foals are born all year long, with by far the peak months being December to February. Mares will foal every 16 months to 24 months. The gestation period is 12 - 13 months. The mares will begin foaling at 3 - 4 years of age. In private ownership, where migration and weather are not an issue, zebras are born all year long.


A mare will call her foal, a foal its mother, or other herd members will call a location bark when separated with a loud qua-ha, in rapid succession. A plains or mountain zebra can be identified by another zebra in its group by its bark. When alerted, the zebra will emit a breath in/breath out quick gasping sound. The 'leave me alone' vocalization is a short or long squeal. Blowing through the nose when relaxed, when grazing, or in mutual grooming. When caught by a predator or feeling its life is threatened, a tight sounding long squeal is what is heard.


Lions and hyenas are the usual predators of the zebras. The zebras will fight when they can, but a mother will not usually die for her young. Dying for her young means that the foal will die too, as another zebra mare will not take on an orphan zebra. If the foal dies, the mare lives to have another the following year. When a predator is spotted, the zebra on guard, and subsequent zebras will stare at the predator, then snort to alert the other zebras, and often begin stomping, then running. The young will be herded into the center of the group if there is time.

Habitat - Locations

The Burchell's habitat is from southeastern Sudan to South Africa, Kenya, Namibia, Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania, Etosha NP, and west to Angola, in Somali-Masai Arid Zone, Southern Savanna, and South West Arid Zone. These zebras will eat the tall grasses and the shorter grasses, so finding grazing is usually not difficult. They sometimes will travel up to ten miles a day to find new pasture. They like water at least once a day, but have been known to travel 1 - 2 days without water.

Social Life

Each stallion will begin his own kinship group at the age of 5 - 6. Until then he may reamain with a bachelor group, honing his fighting skills in mock fights while he matures and readies himself to show a female's father (sire) that he is worthy of his daughter. A mature stallion will be herd sire over a 'kinship group' of up to 6 mares. His offspring are welcome to stay with the group until he allows his daughters to be taken by another stallion, and his sons join a bachelor herd, anywhere from 2 - 4 years of age. The bachelor group will have a pecking order, which is generally age based. There could be up to 15 males in each bachelor group. The stallion defends his mares and family against all comers. Each animal is identified by its striping pattern and a stallion will search out a missing mare or other family member amongst many kinship groups in the larger herd until he finds her and runs her back to his group. He will call to them and his vocalization will be recognized also by the mare, and her call will be recognized by him. The group is tightknit, but within itself there is a specific pecking order, with the lead mare taking the most advantage, then the next mare, and so on. Mutual grooming is seen amongst mares and the stallion, and amongst mares on either side of the pecking order for a particular animal. The lead mare rarely socializes with the mare at the bottom of the pecking order, but only with the one next to her as they down the list. The zebras will also rub one another with their heads on each other's necks, flanks and buttocks as a show of affection to the stallion, and the mares closest to each one in the pecking order, as well as scratch each other's withers in mutual grooming with teeth and/or lips. They will often rest their chins on a friend.

Though it looks like there may be hundreds or thousands in a herd, that large herd is made up of many kinship groups, where each 'family' is respected as a separate group onto itself, and unless a stallion is killed, injured, or aged to where he cannot defend his 'girls' then they will not be disturbed, unless a young stallion ask for a daughter's hand in marriage, and, in fact, unless the stallion cannot look after his mares, they will be with him for life. A stallion may urinate or defecate on the perimeter around his mares to 'mark' his territory.

When a new mare is brought into the kinship group by the stallion as he builds his group, the current mares show an abject unwillingness to share their stud with a new mare. They will ostrasize her, sometimes for weeks, chasing and biting her, and she will have to stay on the outskirts of the group, protected only by the stallion. The pecking order, or hierarchy, is formed from when the first mare joins the stallion, and only age, injury or death will change the pecking order as each mare is brought into the kinship group. The lead mare is always very clearly seen. She will walk out first when the group moves, with each successive mare in the hierarchy following, and each with their foals at their sides. The stallion is the only one that is free to be in front or back or in the middle as he moves his 'girls' and family. When the stallion is moving his mares, he will lay his ears flat back, lower his head to the ground and cover ground smoothly, with purpose. If his mares do not get in line and respond the way he wants, he will charge and bite on the neck, flank or butt.

When a mare urinates or defecates, the stallion will walk to the spot, check out the item, then urinate or defecate on top of the mare's leavings, laying claim once again to his mare.

When a mare foals, she lays on her side, just outside the perimeter of the group. The stallion keeps watch, and usually keeps the other mares at a respectful distance. Once the mare has foaled a new baby weighing from 58 pounds to 68 pounds, it only takes a few minutes before the baby is standing, and within a half hour to one hour is nursing. The mare (mother) keeps herself between the other zebras and her baby, so that her foal can imprint on her striping pattern and her smell, so that when the baby is separated from her, it will recognize her above all others. Its life depends upon it. Once it is fully imprinted on her, then she allows contact with other members of the group.

The zebra stomp is a symbol of the completion of an interaction between two males usually, and babies will practice this with one another, where they stomp with the front feet, or the front and hind feet, mutually ending a mock fight, or a real fight, or even a play period. Of course, bachelors practice it regularly. When a bachelor or other stallion is vying for the hand of a fair maiden from her father, the young maiden's sire may spend the greater part of the day testing the young stallion to see if he is worthy of his daughter, but at the end of it all, he will initiate the stomping to signify the end of the confrontation.

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