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Zebras

Zebras

Zebras are some of the most recognisable animals in the world. Most children will be able to identify this distinctive member of the horse family by its black and white stripes. This page contains zebra facts for kids and adults, and is part of our African Animals series.

Zebras have very good hearing and eyesight, which helps them stay clear of predators such as lions, hyenas, and cheetahs. It also helps that they can run 56 km/h (35 mph) and pack a powerful kick. If one zebra spots a predator, it lets out a sharp two-syllable call. The young and female zebras run, while the males trail behind to defend them. If one is attacked, others circle around to help protect it from predators.
 

Zebras are known to travel great distances to find food and water when the dry season arrives.

When not eating or traveling, zebras do take the opportunity to sleep. In fact, they sleep standing up! But zebras only sleep when they are in large groups so that they can be alerted of danger.

A typical plains zebra family consists of a male, called a stallion, several females, called mares, and their children. When a female becomes pregnant, it takes 13 months to have the baby, called a foal. These family groups are called harems. The harems will often join with other families to form large herds.

Zebras can live up to 25 years in the wild.

Like horses, zebras have four gaits, i.e. walk, trot, canter and gallop. Zebras are generally slower than horses but can still run at speeds of up to 35 mph (56 kph). Often, the lead stallion sounds an alarm when danger is spotted and then stays at the rear of the herd or group to defend against predators and allows the mares and foals to escape. When chased, zebras often zig-zag from side to side, making it much more difficult for predators to catch them. Zebras usually rely on their great stamina to outrun predators, but if they are cornered, they will rear up and kick or bite the attacker.

Zebra females (mares) can usually have their first foal when they are 3-years-old. Males mature much more slowly and are not able to breed until the age of 5 or 6. Females are pregnant for 12 to 14 months and can give birth to 1 foal every 12 months. Newly-born foals are precocious, i.e. they are able to stand, walk and suck milk soon after birth, and weigh 55 to 88 lb (25 to 40 kg) at birth. Foals are weaned after about a year.

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