How many kinds of zebra are there?
Back to Zebra Home
Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi) is larger than the Plains zebra and has many more, narrower, black stripes. The Mountain zebra (Equus zebra) is smaller than the plains zebra. It has an unpatterned belly and a dewlap on its upper throat (Alden 1995). The plains zebra is the most common zebra, although one of its subspecies, the quagga (Equus quagga) is already extinct. The Desert is the Grevy's, with only one known subtype. The Mountain Zebra has two remaininb subtypes (Hartman and Cape). The three distinct species of Zebra are no more closely related to each other than they are to horses and asses.
The Plains zebras are much more varied, and although several subtypes are now extinct, a good number of variations remain.
The plains zebra, also referred to as the common zebra, are the most numerous with an estimated population of 300,000 that roam the Savannah's of Eastern and Central Africa. They have shorter heads, smaller ears, and are more pony-like than their relatives, standing from 11 hands (44 inches) to 13 hands (52 inches) at the withers. These are the most commonly used zebra for hybrid production as well as circus acts, traveling carnivals, etc..
The mountain zebra are an endangered species with an estimated population of only 5,000 in their native habitat which is the mountain ranges along the southern most tip of Africa. There are two subspecies of mountain zebra: Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and Hartmann's Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra hartmannae). The mountain zebra are smaller and more donkey-like, standing no more than 12 hand (48 inches) at the withers. Mountain zebra, like plains zebra, have broad stripes on the rump which extend horizontally but turn downward just past the flank. Also, their bellies are white, like the Grevy's Zebra. Their most notable characteristics are the flap of skin, called a dewlap, on the underside of their necks and the horizontal bars in the pattern of a grid-iron over their croup. The legs are completely striped to the hooves. Another unusual aspect of the Mountain Zebra is that the hair of the spinal stripe grows forward, from croup to withers. The Mountain Zebra has two remaininb subtypes (Hartman and Cape).
desert zebra, proper name Grevy's Zebra (Equus grevyi), are a threatened species
with an estimated population of 15,000 in their native habitat which is the
hot, dry desert fringe areas of northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and three
isolated parts of Somalia. There are no subspecies of the desert zebra and they
are the largest of the three types of zebra standing 13.2-14.2 hand (54-58 inches)
at the withers. They have a large head, rounded ears, and are more mule-like
in appearance. They are characterized by the numerous, narrow stripes
that are vertical and very close-set, as well as the croup stripes which are
arranged concentrically around the root of the tail. The belly is white and
the legs are striped to the hooves. These zebra are sometimes used for the production
of zebra hybrids, since they are larger and less skittish than the plains zebra.
There are several species of zebras, which can be distinguished by their stripe patterns (123Spot 1999).