Equus burchelli antiquorum
Damara zebras, also called Burchell's zebras or plains zebras, are the most common and widespread zebra in Africa. They live in the savannas of eastern and southern Africa.
One theory has been that they confuse predators. But it may be that stripes are an adaptation to confuse horse flies! A study published in 2012 found that horseflies avoid landing on black and white striped surfaces. More stripes equate to fewer horsefly bites. Over generations, zebras with more stripes had fewer infections and diseases carried by the flies. They survived and passed on this successful adaptation to offspring.
Zebra behavior and facts
- Zebras eat grasses and occasionally browse leaves, bark, roots and stems. They are dependent on water and need to be close to a source.
- Zebras are social. They can form large herds in the hundreds, sometimes with wildebeest, antelope and ostriches. Within the herd, they live in harems of one stallion with two to six mares and young.
- Mares associate with one stallion for life; hierarchy within the harem is based on the order in which mares were acquired by him. When not in a larger herd, the oldest mare leads the family with the stallion at the rear to protect and direct.
- Bachelor zebras live alone or in a bachelor herd.
- Zebras have a home range from 11 to 232 square miles; they may cover 10 miles per day as they graze and can run up to 40 miles per hour. The herd adjusts its pace to accommodate sick or crippled members.
- Zebra predators include lions and hyenas. When threatened, zebras give a yelping bark, more like a donkey than a horse. At night one family member remains awake, on guard for predators.
From birth to death
- Weight: 640 to 750 pounds
- Height at shoulder: 47 to 55 inches
- Birth interval: 1 to 3 years
- Gestation: 370 days
- Zebras have one foal at a time. The mother keeps the herd away several days until the foal can imprint.
- Sexual maturity: 2.5 to 3 years
- Males may not form harems until age 6 or more.
- Lifespan: more than 20 years
Zebras, the Oregon Zoo and you
Zebras do not currently live in the Africa Savanna habitat, but the Oregon Zoo looks forward to bringing them back in the future.
In the wild, zebras have lost some of their historic range due to human encroachment. They are also hunted for their skins and meat.
Damara zebras are not threatened, and some of their range is now protected. You can help zebras continue to thrive even as population pressures increase by not buying products made from animal skins.
Did you know?
The sets of stripes on each zebra are as unique and distinctive as fingerprints are for humans.