7 Fun Facts About Zebras

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1. Zebra Stripes Are Unique

Zebra, South Africa
Zebra in South Africa (Photo: WIN-Initiative/Getty Images.

Zebras are known for their stripes, but did you know that those stripes are like fingerprints, marking each individual zebra as unique?

Just like fingerprints are unique to each individual human, so are the stripes and patterns on each individual zebra. Zebras in the same subspecies have similar patterns, but no two patterns are exactly alike.

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2. Zebras Use Their Stripes To Hide

Lioness watching zebras
Lioness watching zebras at a distance. (Photo: Buena Vista Images/Getty Images).

Zebras are best known for their black and white striped bodies. But while you may think that their stripes would make them stand out among the greens and browns of the African savanna, zebras actually use their stripes as camouflage devices to help them blend into one another and their surroundings.

From a distance, the stripes of several zebras in close proximity to one another may blend together, making it difficult for predators - particularly predators like the colorblind lions - to pinpoint a single animal. 

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3. Zebras Are Black With White Stripes

Zebra Stripes
Seeing Double. (Photo: Justin Lo/Getty Images).

It's the age-old question - are zebras black with white stripes or white with black stripes? Because of the white underbellies found on some zebras, it had previously been thought that the hoofed mammals were white with black stripes. But a recent study tracking embryological data has found that zebras actually have a black coat with white stripes and underbellies.

Now you know!

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4. Zebras Are Very Social Animals

Two Burchell's zebra
Two Burchell's zebras (Equus burchelli), face to face, at the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya (Photo:"http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/photo/two-burchells-zebras-face-to-face-kenya-royalty-free-image/200329116-001">Anup Shah/Getty Images).

Zebras are social animals that spend time in herds. They graze together and even groom one another by licking and biting each other's coats to get rid of dirt and bugs. The leader of a zebra group is called the stallion.  The females that live in the group are called fillies.

Sometimes, zebra herds will combine to create one huge zebra herd that numbers in the thousands. But even within these large groups, core zebra families will remain close.

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5. Zebras Can Talk!

Zebras
Two zebras standing in the grass. (Photo: /Getty Images).

Zebras can communicate with one another by barking, snorting or whinnying.  Also, zebras use body language to express their feelings. A zebra's ears communicate if it is feeling calm or tense.  If they are standing straight up, it is feeling calm.  If the zebra's ears are pushed forward, it is feeling tense or frightened.

 

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6. One Species of Zebra Is Extinct

Burchell's zebra
Burchell's zebra, Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe (Photo: David Fettes/Getty Images).

There are currently three species of zebras in the world. Outside of zoos, all of the world's wild zebras live in Africa. The world's zebra species include the Plains zebra, (or Burchell's zebra,) the Mountain zebra, and the Grevy's zebra.

A fourth species, called the Quagga zebra became extinct in the late 19th century. Today, the plains zebra is still plentiful, but both the mountain zebra and the grevy's zebra are endangered.

 

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7. Zebras Don't Leave A Male (or Female) Behind

Burchell's zebra foal
urchell's zebra foal resting at Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya (Photo: Martin Harvey/Getty Images).

Zebras take good care of each other. If a young, old, or sick member needs to slow down, the whole herd will slow down so that all can keep up. And if an animal is attacked, its family will come to its defense, circling the wounded zebra in an attempt to drive off predators.

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8. Ecologists Are Working To "Breed Back" The Extinct Quagga

Reintroduced Quagga Zebra
A foal born as part of the Quagga Project. (Screenshot: .

The Quagga zebra officially became extinct in the late 18th century, but ecologists are working hard to "breed back" the species, using the genetically similar plains zebras to breed zebras which look similar to the extinct quagga. The effort, called the Quagga Project, uses selective breeding to create a line of zebras that are similar in appearance to the quagga.

Scientists are quick to point out though that this breeding back program can only create animals that look like their long-lost cousins. It serves as a good reminder that once an animal becomes extinct, it truly is gone forever.