Zebras are members of the horse family. They can run up to thirty-five miles per hour. Their hearing and eyesight are excellent. Their predators can be wild dogs, hyenas, and lions. In defending themselves, zebras give a very strong kick against their attackers which can cause great injuries. The stallion is the male leader of a herd. He will sound the warning if danger is spotted. Then he will remain at the back of the herd to protect the rest of the herd, usually mares (females) and foals (babies).
Zebras use a trot when going long distances, such as moving to new feeding grounds. This is a type of running between running fast and moving slowly. Their hooves are very hard to support their weight as they run. The hooves help the zebras run over rocky ground. Zebras lie down to sleep. One always stands guard at night.
Zebras are described as having white coats with white or maybe brown stripes. The reason for saying that the zebras are white is that the dark stripes usually end at their belly. Their belly is white. However, some zebras are born with a mutation and are black with white stripes. Their belly is black. Zebras have black skin under their hair. Each zebra has a different pattern of stripes. The stripes help protect zebras from attack. When a herd is together, all the stripes together confuse a predator. He has a difficult time picking out just one zebra to attack.
There are three different types of zebra. They have different kinds of stripes. Some are narrow. Some are wide. The types are plains, mountain and Grevy's zebras. As you travel farther south on Africa's plains, the stripes get farther apart. Every type of zebra has the same body structure and parts. They have a bristly mane and a large head with a sturdy neck. Their legs are long. They all have a stripe along their spine, called a dorsal stripe. They all have a tail with a tassel at the end.
The Grevy's zebra looks almost like a mule. It is the largest zebra. It can weigh 750-1,000 pounds. The Grevy's zebras have large round ears and thick necks. Their height is five feet up to their shoulder. Their stripes are the thinnest of all the kinds of zebras. The stripes on their back hindquarters are vertical instead of horizontal until just above their hind legs.
A mountain zebra has vertical stripes on its neck and torso (the main part of the body). A dark stripe runs along its belly. It has something that looks like an Adam's apple, a bulge, on its throat. A plains zebra is the most common type. Some of them have a brownish shadow stripe between the black stripes.
Each of the three types of zebra dwell in a different type of environment. Grevy's zebras live in grassland in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. Mountain zebras live on rocky slopes in Libya and Angola. The type of zebra with the highest population is the plains zebra. They live from grasslands in East Africa to wooded lands in southern Africa.
Zebras are herbivores and eat mostly grasses along with some stems and leaves. They graze for much of the day. They use their strong front teeth to clip off the tips of the grass. Their back teeth chew and grind the grass. Their teeth get ground down by this constant chewing, so the teeth keep growing all their lives.
As the dry season comes and grass is scarce, the herd travels to find new pastures. The mountain and plains zebras do not have specific territories. The Grevy's zebras, however, mark their boundaries with urine and dung. Stallions may sometimes leave their herds and find bigger ones to travel in search of food.
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