Most people recognize a zebra when they see one. Black & white stripes pretty much covers it right? There is a lot more variety than you might think.
Last week we met the more colorful Equus & Asinus members of the family, but today it’s all about the black & white. Because of their unique striping patterns the taxonomy of zebra species has been difficult at best & there is a lot of conflicting information out there.
Not only are their stripe patterns regional, but like fingerprints, no two zebras have the same stripes.
Sadly many of the zebra species are facing troubled times in their native territories. Due to hunting (for those beautiful coats) and habitat destruction.
The Grevy’s Zebra is found in southeastern Ethiopia, Kenya & Somalia and has perhaps the most unique striping pattern of the bunch. Their behavior is equally as odd as they have a tendency to form only temporary bonds for reproduction. These are the largest of the zebras and not quite as cold tolerant as many of the other subspecies.
The Grevy’s zebra is hunted for food and for their beautiful hide and is now listed as endangered.
Grant’s Zebra is one of the most common and probably the most studied of the plains zebra species. They can still be found in plentiful numbers from southern Sudan through east Africa. During the rainy season on the Serengeti-Mara plains they travel in herds whose numbers can reach 10,000.
The large herds migrating on the on the Serengeti-Mara plains is an amazing spectacle, thankfully their numbers still persist.
The Burchell’s zebra is another of the more common subspecies and can be found throughout southeastern Africa from Ethiopia & Sudan, west to Namibia, south to northern South Africa. Their stripes are wider and sometimes appear faint brown like a stripe “shadow”.
Still found in plentiful numbers, these zebras are ok for the moment, however due to poaching & habitat destruction populations are on the decline.
Also called Damaraland zebras, there is quite a bit of conflicting info online about the Chapman’s zebra. They cover a wide range from central to the northeastern point of South Africa. They are noted for their obvious “shadow” stripe of light color between their dark stripes, and their lack of striping on their legs.
The plains zebras are the most plentiful wild members of the equidae family, but like their brothers they are facing a decline in their numbers.
The Quagga is an extinct subspecies of the plains zebras, they were once found in plentiful numbers in southern Africa. Distinguished from other zebras because their striping pattern was strong on their front end and faded to brown on the hindquarters.
The last of the Quagga species was extinguished late in the 19th century, both in the wild & in captivity.
I could find very little about the Selous’ zebra, they are native to southeastern Africa and were once common in central Mozambique. Unlike some of the other plains zebras they display clean black and white banding. Their remaining numbers are scattered in small isolated groups and remain in the double digits.
The Selous’ zebra is critically endangered, if anyone has more information about them I hope you’ll speak up & share it.
The Crawshay’s zebra is only found in the northeastern part of Zambia & I was unable to find anything substantial about them online.
If anyone knows more about the Crawshay’s zebra, I hope you’ll share it with everyone.
The Cape Mountain Zebra is the smallest of the zebra species, noted for their stocky build and large dewlap on their throat. These animals are only found in the mountain ranges of southern South Africa and are the most isolated geographically.
The Cape Mountain Zebra is listed as vulnerable, they almost reached extinction in the 1930’s, but recent conservation efforts have upped their numbers.
The Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra used to be found from western Namibia to southern Angola to northern South Africa. Now they occupy small pockets of Namib desert & South Africa. They are the largest of the 2 mountain zebras with narrower & more widely spaced black stripes than the Cape Mountain Zebra.
The Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra is listed as endangered and faces the same challenges as all zebras do in Africa.
Have A Favorite?
They are all so beautiful and when you see them together it’s much easier to see their slight differences. My personal favorite has to be the skinny stripes of the Grevy’s (although I like the robust mountain zebras too. If you haven’t already met the Equus & Asinus members be sure to make their acquaintance.