Plains Zebra (Equus burchellii)


Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family:    Equidae
Size:    Height: 44 to 58 inches (1.1 to 1.5 m) at the shoulder, or 11 to 14.2 hands (4 inches/10 cm = 1 hand)
Weight: 385 to 847 pounds (175 to 385 kg)
Diet: Grass, twigs, leaves and herbs
Distribution: Southeastern Africa
Young:  1 foal every year if healthy, otherwise, once every 2 years
Animal Predators: 

Lions, leopards, cheetahs and spotted hyenas

IUCN Status: See Conservation below
Terms: Male: Stallion   Female:  Mare   Young: Foal  Male foal: Colt  Female foal: Filly  Group: Herd   

20 to 40 years



·       Plains zebras are also known as Burchells zebras and Common zebras.

·       Zebra stripes are like human fingerprints—no two zebras have the same stripe pattern.

·       Burchell’s zebras and mountain zebras are more horse-like than Grevys zebras.



Plains zebras have a distinctive cry that sounds like “kwa-ha.” Plains zebras living in southern areas such as South Africa often have stripes that meet under their belly, unlike other zebras that have all a white belly. Plains zebras are distinguishable from mountain zebras because of the absence of a flap on their throat.



Plains zebras can be found in southeastern Africa. They once roamed the open plains in large numbers, but now can usually only be found in smaller herds within protected areas such as parks and reserves. 


Feeding Habits

Plains zebras spend most of the day grazing, eating grass, bark, leaves and buds. They are usually found near a water source, as they need to drink daily. 



Plains zebra mares usually have their first foal when they are about three years of age. There is no defined mating season, although more foals seem to be born from December to January. The mare undergoes a 12-month pregnancy, and when she is about to give birth, the male stands guard over her while she lays down. The newborn can stand within minutes, and within an hour, can run awkwardly, but enough to keep up with the herd. The mother keeps the foal away from the other zebras for the first few days, so that it will be able to recognize her when they are back in the herd. The foal begins eating grass within a week, but keeps nursing until eight to 13 months old.



Plains zebras live in herds of one stallion and several females and juveniles. Stallions form their own herd by enticing young females from their father’s herds. When a member of the herd becomes sick or lame, the herd slows its pace so the slowest member can keep up. They also search and/or call out if a member is missing, until they locate the lost member again. At night, while most of the herd dozes, one or more members stay awake to act as a sentinel. Plains zebras are social animals often found in the company of other animals, such as the wildebeest and ostrich. Each animal has a special talent for detecting predators—the wildebeest has a wonderful sense of smell, the ostrich has keen eyesight, and the zebra has excellent hearing—giving these animals, when found together, great protection from being surprised.



Plains zebras have been greatly affected by loss of habitat and hunting. The subspecies Equus burchellii burchellii is listed as Extinct by the IUCN’s Red List, while various other subspecies are listed as Data Deficient.