How Many Types Of Zebras Are There?

A zebra in its preferred habitat of grassland.
A zebra in its preferred habitat of grassland.

Zebras are a group of African equids easily distinguished by their distinctive black and white striped coats. The patterns of stripes of zebras is unique to each individual. Zebras are usually social animals who live in herds of varying size called harems. Unlike their close relatives of donkeys and horses, zebras have never been domesticated. Zebras live in a wide range of habitats including woodlands, savannahs, grasslands, mountains, coastal hills, and more. However, despite their wide range, these animals have been subjected to indiscriminate hunting for skins and habitat destruction.

11. Grévy's zebra

A Grévy's zebra.

The Grévy's zebra or the imperial zebra (Equus grevyi) is the largest living wild equid. It is also the most threatened species of zebra. These zebras live in the semi-arid grasslands of Kenya and Ethiopia. The Grévy's zebra is named after Jules Grévy, a President of the French Third Republic. This species of zebra is taller than the other zebra species and have larger ears and narrower stripes. The animal feeds on legumes, grasses, and browse, and can live for up to five days without water. The Grévy's zebra is classified as Endangered by the IUCN.

10. Mountain Zebra

Mountain zebras standing on rocky terrain.

The mountain zebra (Equus zebra) is one of the three species of zebra that is native to south-western Angola, South Africa, and Namibia. There are two subspecies of this zebra; the Cape mountain zebra, and the Hartmann's mountain zebra. However, a 2005 genetic study found nothing to support this subspecies classification of the zebra species. These zebras live in hot, rocky, mountainous, and dry habitats. They prefer to live to live on plateaus and slopes of up to 3,300 feet above sea level.

9. Hartmann's mountain Zebra

Hartmann's mountain zebra.

Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae) is a mountain zebra subspecies living in western Namibia and south-western Angola. These zebras are well adapted to live in both arid conditions and steep mountainous terrain. They are agile climbers and live in small groups of 7 to 12 individuals. The classification of the Hartmann's mountain zebra as a separate subspecies is not supported by genetic evidence. Hence, the Mammal Species of the World does not recognize it as a subspecies as of 2005.

8. Cape mountain Zebra

A Cape mountain zebra in South Africa.

The Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) is found in the mountainous regions of South Africa’s Eastern and Western Cape provinces. It is the smallest and most geographically restricted among all the zebra subspecies. The Cape mountain zebra is classified as "vulnerable" by the IUCN. The zebra subspecies is stockier with a larger dewlap and longer ears than the Hartmann's subspecies. The animals are predominantly crepuscular (meaning active at dusk) and diurnal (meaning active in the daytime) in nature. The diet of the animals consists mainly of grasses. Being a highly selective feeder, it prefers greener leafy plants. The population of the Cape mountain zebra has significantly declined over the years due to indiscriminate hunting and habitat destruction.

7. Plains Zebra

The plains zebra is the most common zebra type.

The plains zebra (Equus quagga) is the most common and widespread of zebra species. The range of these zebras extends from the south of Ethiopia to as far south as eastern South Africa, as well as in Botswana and eastwards through East Africa. The plains zebra has six extant subspecies as described below.

6. Burchell's Zebra

Burchell's zebras in South Africa.

Named after the British explorer and naturalist William John Burchell, the Burchell’s zebra (Equus quagga burchellii) is one of six species of plains zebra. The zebra subspecies is named after William John Burchell, a British explorer, and naturalist. The zebra migrates the longest distance among the terrestrial animals in Africa. It travels about 160 miles one way from Namibia's Chobe River to Botswana's Nxai Pan National Park.

5. Grant's Zebra

The grant's zebra taking a sandbath.

The Grant's zebra (Equus quagga boehmi) is the smallest subspecies of the plains zebra. The zebra lives in parts of Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia. The zebras are vertically striped in front. The stripes on the back legs are horizontal and diagonal on the hind flanks and rump. The stripes of these zebras are well-defined and broad. The zebras feed on the coarse grasses of the plains. Due to the ongoing civil war within the range of the Grant's zebra, these animals have experienced a dramatic decline in population. However, this subspecies has a larger population than other subspecies of zebra.

4. Selous' Zebra

Selous' Zebra with a pair of giraffes.

The Selous' zebra (Equus quagga selousi) is a plains zebra subspecies that is found in southeastern Africa. Mozambique hosts a significant population of the zebra. The Selous' Zebra has distinct black-and-white banding that extends down the flanks and covers the entire body with the exception of the neck and the face.

3. Maneless Zebra

Maneless zebras.

The maneless zebra (Equus quagga borensis) is the northernmost plains zebra subspecies that lives in eastern Africa’s northern parts. The zebra is found in Kenya, Uganda, and Sudan. The Boma National Park in South Sudan hosts a significant population of the maneless zebra.

2. Chapman's Zebra

A Chapman's zebra.

Chapman's zebra (Equus quagga chapmani) is a plains zebra subspecies. These animals are native to parts of the savannah region of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola, Botswana, and Namibia. These subspecies have stripes resembling the Burchell's zebra. The pastern of this equid is not all black on the lower half. The foals have brown stripes and in some cases, adults retain their brown stripes for life. These zebras live in large herds of about tens of thousands of individuals. The herds are made of family groups and bachelors. The former are called harems and consist of a herd stallion, 1 to 6 females, and their offsprings.

1. Crawshay's Zebra

Crawshay's zebras.

The Crawshay's zebra (Equus quagga crawshayi) is a plains zebra subspecies that is native to parts of Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique. The lower incisors of the Crawshay's zebra lack an infundibulum, a feature that distinguishes the subspecies from other subspecies of the plains zebra. It also has much narrower stripes than the other subspecies.


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