Zebras are perplexing and exotic looking creatures of the wild, their distinctive stripes catching fancy of all. There are heaps more cool facts about zebras for kids. Kids may have inevitably come to associate zebras with Marty- the quirky resident of the New York Zoo, seen in the animated movie series Madagascar. In reality, zebras are very social animals, sometimes herds coming together to form one large group of zebras. But zebras also have some very strict codes of living, from which dear Marty may have erred.
White over black or black over white?
Zebra stripes have been a constant source of wonder among scientists. It is still not known for certain, but it is theorized that the zebras have the stripes to throw off predators, to serve as a camouflage. Especially at dawn and dusk, a running herd of these striped animals look confusing. A zebra’s stripes are like our fingerprints- each has its own unique stripes by which they are distinguished. The stripes are of a V-shaped pattern. As for the debate whether a zebra is black with white stripes or white with black stripes- there is no answer. However, underneath the hair, a zebra has black skin.
Photo Credit: Pius Mahimbi (CC License)
The strict disciplinarians
Zebras follow a strict hierarchy in the herd. Each herd consists of a stallion and a few mares. Among the mares, there is a dominant one and all the others follow in single file with the lowest ranking mare at the back of the group. The stallion can behave on its own and the mares will follow. They bond closely over the years and when one becomes separated from the group, the others look for the lost zebra with their set of noises and signals. The zebras groom each other, pulling loose hairs from each others’ coat which brings them closer as a herd. They adjust their pace to accommodate the weak and the old.
The bachelor party
When a foal, or a baby zebra is born, its mother keeps it away from the rest of the herd for a couple of days until the foal can recognize her by sight, smell and voice. The foals remain close to their mother, suckling for a year, but they are close to their fathers too for about a year. When they turn 1 year old, a group of young zebras, all male bachelors, leave the group between the ages 1 to 4 years to become strong enough to lead their own herds.
‘Together we stand’
Zebras are big large animals, so they are important prey to a number of predators like lions, hyenas, leopards and cheetahs. Even hunting dogs are known to kill zebras. That is why, they move in large herds. The zebras’ stripes make it harder for the predator to target a single animal’s and attack. The zebra uses its hind legs to deliver powerful kicks to the predator, which may allow them to escape. When one of the zebras is injured, the rest of the herd often forms a protective circle around it to ward off further attack. Zebras have great nocturnal eyesight, comparable to an owls’, which makes them difficult to hunt even at night. They sleep standing, always poised to make a run for it if an attack comes, reaching speeds of 40 miles per hour. Even a foal can run when it is an hour old.
Herd of Zebras
Photo Credit: Filip Lachowski (CC License)
The green eaters
Zebras are chiefly grazers. They migrate in groups of thousands to look for green pastures. However, if they are in a short distance from a water hole during the dry season, they can live on coarse, dry grass for weeks. They eat green leaves, shrubs, twigs, herbs, fruits and barks too.