Zebras, horses and wild asses are all equids, long-lived animals that move quickly for their large size and have teeth built for grinding and cropping grass. Zebras have horselike bodies, but their manes are made of short, erect hair, their tails are tufted at the tip and their coats are striped.
Three species of zebra still occur in Africa, two of which are found in East Africa. The most numerous and widespread species in the east is Burchell's, also known as the common or plains zebra. The other is Grevy's zebra, named for Jules Grevy, a president of France in the 1880s who received one from Abyssinia as a gift, and now found mostly in northern Kenya. (The third species, Equus zebra, is the mountain zebra, found in southern and southwestern Africa.)
The long-legged Grevy's zebra, the biggest of the wild equids, is taller and heavier than the Burchell's, with a massive head and large ears.
Zebras have shiny coats that dissipate over 70 percent of incoming heat, and some scientists believe the stripes help the animals withstand intense solar radiation. The black and white stripes are a form of camouflage called disruptive coloration that breaks up the outline of the body. Although the pattern is visible during daytime, at dawn or in the evening when their predators are most active, zebras look indistinct and may confuse predators by distorting true distance.
The stripes on Grevy's zebras are more numerous and narrow than those of the plains zebra and do not extend to the belly. In all zebra species, the stripes on the forequarters form a triangular pattern; Grevy's have a similar pattern on the hindquarters, while others have a slanted or horizontal pattern.
Burchell's zebras inhabit savannas, from treeless grasslands to open woodlands; they sometimes occur in tens of thousands in migratory herds on the Serengeti plains. Grevy's zebras are now mainly restricted to parts of northern Kenya. Although they are...
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