Body and Behaviours
Zebras have strong bodies and legs, small hooves, big ears and stiff manes that are striped. Zebras have a pattern of white and black stripes. There are small differences in how the different kinds of zebra look. Some kinds have white legs, some have brownish 'shadow stripes' in between the black and white stripes, some have narrow stripes close together, some have leg stripes all the way down to the hooves, some have them halfway down. The Grevy's zebras are the largest, with large, rounded ears.
No two zebras have the same pattern, just like human fingerprints. They can even have a different pattern on one side of their body to the other. We don't really know for sure why zebras have the patterns they do. One theory is that when a herd runs together a predator gets confused by the swirling black and white stripes. Another theory is that the air over the black stripes is warmer than the air over the white stripes, and so the warm and cool air swirl and fan the animal. This also creates a shimmer around the animal, making it harder for predators to see individuals.
Zebras are fast runners, and stay very alert all the time in case of danger. They kick hard with their hind legs. They have excellent eyesight, smell and hearing to help alert them to predators.
Zebras are herbivores, which means they eat only plants. They have very mobile lips which grip a tuft of grass while their front teeth cut it off. Their back teeth (molars) grind the grass.There is little nutrition in grass, and zebras are not ruminants like giraffe so they need to eat a lot in order to get enough nutrition. This means they graze for most of the day.
A mare gives birth to a foal about 12 months after mating with a male. For at least two days, the mother keeps other zebras away from her newborn foal so that they learn to recognise each other's patterns. Foals have legs almost as long as an adult's so that one hour after birth it is able to run fast enough to keep up with the herd. Foals stay close to their mothers for protection. They suckle milk from their mothers.