Plains zebras are a mid-sized zebra, reaching a length of approximately 2.5m and a weight of 400kg. They are very social animals living in a harem group where a single male is associated with several females and their recent offspring. Bachelor groups of young males are also not uncommon. These groups come together to form much larger herds, or dazzles, during migration periods. Plains zebra can be found in savannah and savannah woodland areas ranging from southern Ethiopia, through east Africa and onto southern African countries such as Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa.
The striping patterns of zebra are not only different between each sub-species but are also unique to each individual. The plains zebra can be distinguished by its “shadow” striping between each of their main stripes. The reason behind these striping patterns is unknown although it’s theorised they could be for camouflage, to prevent attacks by biting insects or for thermoregulation.
Plains zebra feed on a variety of grasses, approximately 92% of their diet, and are generally the first grazers to be found on newly vegetated areas. As they are hindgut fermenters, zebras are less choosy over the vegetation or browse that they eat, but they do have to eat more of it. This means that plains zebra can spend up to 18 hours a day eating.
Plains zebra are hunted by lion, leopards, cheetahs and sometimes hyena. As a deterrent to this, a male zebra will alert his harem using a high-pitched snort, this signals that it’s time to make a hasty retreat, often in a zig-zag fashion and accompanied by a hind-leg kick.
Apart from predation, the main threat to plains zebra is hunting for both their meat and their hide. This has led to them being classified as near threatened on the IUCN Red List.
To answer that age old question, Zebras are black with white stripes.