Zebras are white with black stripes, not black with white stripes.

Why do zebras have stripes? To answer this question, you have to think about it scientifically: How might stripes help zebras survive?

We saw many zebras on the savanna of the Serengeti Plain and surrounding areas. It was easy to see the stripey zebras standing in the grasses, so I was confused when Robert, our guide from one of the local tribes, told us that the stripes help camouflage the animal.

Zebras seem to stand out clearly when they're grazing in the grass.

He explained that the zebras' main enemies were the cats that lived in the area: lion, leopard, and cheetah. When one of these predators came looking for its next meal, it would have a difficult time seeing the outline of the zebra body when the zebra was standing together with the other zebras of the herd.

Zebras will move together when they suspect danger is near.

This is especially true at dawn or dusk, when the light is low. When the zebras are grazing, they may move apart from each other, but when they smell a predator nearby, they all move together and begin to run. Seeing all of the fast-moving stripes makes it even more confusing for the cat!

Stripey zebras can be difficult to see among bushes and trees.

We also saw zebras standing among the trees and bushes. They WERE hard to see! The stripes blended in with the tree branches.

Here's another idea. The stripes might help the zebra avoid being bitten by the tsetse fly. These nasty little beasts give a big bite, and their favorite food is blood! They love wildebeest blood, and human blood, but the zebras aren't bothered by them as much.

Zebra: nature's lawn mower!

Zebras act like horses (in pajamas!), spending most of their time eating grass and trotting from here to there. They eat A LOT – even at night. Some nights, sleeping in my tent, I awoke to the sound of munching on the other side of the canvas. It was startling at first because it sounded so close. When I realized it was just zebras, I let the rhythm of the chewing lull me back to sleep. We saw this cute colt (baby zebra) still in our camp the next morning.

Each zebra has its own unique pattern of stripes.

By the way, when you do further reading about these fascinating animals, you may notice that the plural of zebra is "zebra" or "zebras". Both are commonly used. Another interesting fact – no two zebras have the exact same stripe pattern, just as no two people have the same fingerprint. Can YOU tell the difference between two zebras?

Zebras and wildebeests are often found grazing together.

We often saw wildebeests with the zebras. We asked Robert why they stayed together. He explained that they are interdependent. The zebras eat the older tough grass, leaving exposed the younger tender grass that the wildebeests enjoy. Additionally, zebras feel safer when they're with a large group. Wildebeests benefit by zebras' keen sense of hearing, sight, and smell. They will sound the alarm when there's a predator close by before the wildebeests even realize there's danger near. The wildebeests understand the warning cry made by the zebras so they all start to run. What a great partnership! Think about what might happen if there were no more zebras on the Serengeti. How might it affect the ecosystem?

48 thoughts on “Zebras

    • I saw many zebras during the day eating grass, or walking in single file lines following their leader. I have to say, they do a much better job at walking in line than my students at Cottage Lane! At night, they didn’t come into my tent, but I could hear them eating the grass just outside the tent. Zebras aren’t quite as long as a horse. Yes, I think they’re very cute – especially the babies. Do you?

    • A zebra can run about 35 miles per hour. It does have an interesting head motion when it walks, doesn’t it? It seems to relax its head, but it also needs to look up to see where it’s going.

  1. Hi Ms. Christie- Blick! Who is more powerful, the male zebra or the female zebra? Also I think I know why zebras work well with wildebeests work well together. The wildebeests and zebras aren't carnivores so they don't harm each other. You said zebras eat a lot so about how much do zebras eat?

    • Hi Nicole and Michele! If by powerful, you mean who has the greater strength, it would have to be the male zebra. You’re right about zebras and wildebeests not being carnivores. If one were, I guess they wouldn’t hang out together for long! I’m not sure how much zebras eat each day. I googled it and found several different answers, but none from a reliable source. I can tell you that they eat A LOT. Basically, they graze all day and all night, in between napping.

    • Basically, yes. Zebras have stripes. However, I’ve heard of some cases of albino zebras where the black stripes are very faded. I did see a zebra that had a patch of white on his side where it should have had stripes. The other zebras didn’t seem to be treating this zebra any differently.

  2. What animal is your favorite animal that you saw? My favorite animal is the Zebra because of there stripes and how almost all of them look alike.

    • Their tongues are actually black, but the lighting when I took the picture might have made them look purple. I don’t know why many animals have black tongues but people have pink tongues. I’ll have to research that!

      • That IS strange! I have a book about giraffes, and they also have purplish, blackish, tongues. I think they both have long tongues…. still not sure.
        I think zebras have stripes so they can camouflage in tall grass. It’s mostly to hide from dangerous predators… I think?

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