About the Grevy's Zebra
The largest of the three zebra species, the Grevy’s zebra is also known as the “imperial” zebra. It has narrow black and white stripes, a white or grayish unstriped belly, and a large black stripe down its back. Unlike other zebra species, Grevy’s zebras don’t form permanent herds or permanent adult bonds. They communicate by squealing, braying and grunting.
Grevy's Zebra Facts
This zebra’s unstriped belly is white or gray, its head is large, and it has a distinctive black stripe running down its back and large rounded ears. Sometimes described as a large mule-like animal but known as the “imperial” zebra, its coat is patterned in narrow black and white stripes. In fact, each individual Grevy’s zebra has its own unique stripe pattern, just as humans have unique fingerprints.
Why stripes? There are a number of theories. The stripe pattern of a herd collectively helps to break up the outline of a single zebra, thus confusing potential predators. This patterns camouflages zebras from their colorblind predators. Stripes also help individual zebras recognize each other and may also help regulate body temperature or keep away flies. Although most of us may think of the zebra as white-with-black-stripes, a case study at the Knoxville Zoo showed that, when shaved, the zebra’s skin is actually black.
Height: up to 5.5 feet at the shoulder
Length: up to 10 feet
Weight: 770 to 990 pounds
In the wild: The zebra’s primary food is tough, fibrous grasses, but it will also graze on leaves and shrubs. Males and non-lactating females can go without water for up to five days.
Although mating and births can occur throughout the year, typically this zebra reproduces between August and October and usually gives birth during the rainy season. After a 390-day gestation period, a single foal is born who will become sexually mature at 3 to 4 years of age. Extremely mature at birth, the newborn can be up and mobile within an hour of birth. At about six to eight months, the foal is weaned but may remain with its mother for up to three years because of their strong bond with one another.
Unlike other species of zebras, the Grevy’s zebra doesn’t form permanent herds or bonds between adults. Herd composition can vary daily and is flexible in terms of social hierarchy. The herd does, however, form small groups to graze, often with other types of animals. Breeding stallions (the herd’s dominant male) set up territories to defend water and food resources, and the group may migrate to seek better sources.
Grevy’s zebras communicate with a variety of sounds including squealing, braying and grunting. They can run up to 40 miles per hour. Kicking and biting are their means of self defense, and an entire herd may come to the aid of an individual zebra.
Northern Kenya and southeastern Ethiopia in semi-desert areas.
Males average 11 years, females 16.
Endangered. Chief threats to its existence are habitat loss, poaching and competition with increasing numbers of domestic livestock for limited water supply.
Lions and hyenas. The zebra is also hunted by humans for food and for its hide.