Monday, February 21, 2011

Body and Behaviours

Zebras have strong bodies and legs, small hooves, big ears and stiff manes that are striped. Zebras have a pattern of white and black stripes. There are small differences in how the different kinds of zebra look. Some kinds have white legs, some have brownish 'shadow stripes' in between the black and white stripes, some have narrow stripes close together, some have leg stripes all the way down to the hooves, some have them halfway down. The Grevy's zebras are the largest, with large, rounded ears.

No two zebras have the same pattern, just like human fingerprints. They can even have a different pattern on one side of their body to the other. We don't really know for sure why zebras have the patterns they do. One theory is that when a herd runs together a predator gets confused by the swirling black and white stripes. Another theory is that the air over the black stripes is warmer than the air over the white stripes, and so the warm and cool air swirl and fan the animal. This also creates a shimmer around the animal, making it harder for predators to see individuals.

Zebras are fast runners, and stay very alert all the time in case of danger. They kick hard with their hind legs. They have excellent eyesight, smell and hearing to help alert them to predators.

Most kinds of zebra live in families consisting of a stallion, 2-6 mares, and their foals. Large herds of zebra are usually made up of numerous families. Life is safer in a herd, with many animals alert to danger. If one member of the herd is in trouble, others will try to help. If one member is lost, all members rush around calling until it is found.

They have long jaws to help them hold big mouthfuls of food. Their eyes are located high on the head and at the side so that while they are grazing they can still look out for danger.

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