Zebras are herbivores and a member of the horse family. In the wild, these animals are constantly on the lookout for predators, like lions, hyenas, cheetahs, African wild dogs and leopards. As social creatures, zebras live in a herd. And no two zebras are exactly alike– each has a unique stripe pattern.
The exact purpose for these stripes still puzzles scientists. But many experts believe that a zebra’s stripes confuses predators on the hunt, as it could be difficult to visually single out an individual from a mass of running zebras. The stripes may also distort distance at key hunting times – dawn and dusk – increasing a predator’s confusion while it’s on the prowl.
At quick glance, it’s easy to assume that zebras are white animals with black or brown stripes. But zebras actually have black skin underneath the white hair – and zebras can be born with a genetic variation that gives them black coats and white stripes. Depending on the species, zebras can have thin or thick stripes, or a combination of both.
But a zebra’s stripes might have some additional benefits. It could serve as a natural sunscreen or repel insects. Zebras may also be able to recognize one another based on their individual stripe patterns, widths and colors. According to the San Diego Zoo, “zebras are attracted to black-and-white stripes… Even if stripes are painted on a wall, a zebra will tend to go stand next to it!”
Photo Credit: Jodi Kendall