Zebra in Southern Africa: Everything You Need to Know

Zebras are indeed fascinating animals that have captured the attention of people for centuries. From their unique stripes to their social behaviour and intelligent nature, there are many aspects of zebras that make them intriguing creatures. Zebras are highly social animals that form tight-knit herds and have a strong bond with each other.

They are also known for their speed, with the ability to run up to 65 km/h, which makes them challenging prey for predators. Furthermore, zebras are also intelligent creatures that have been observed recognizing individual humans and remembering past experiences. Their role in maintaining the balance of African ecosystems and their resilience in a variety of habitats make zebras important animals to study and protect. Overall, zebras are fascinating creatures that offer much to admire and learn from.

Burchell’s Zebra Vs. Mountain Zebra

Zebras, with their striking white stripes, are a part of the magnificent variety of African wildlife that contributes to the sense of fulfilment that can be gained from going on a safari in Africa. The plains of southern Africa are home to two major species: Burchell’s or plains/mountain zebra. The most obvious distinction between the two is their stripes.

The Burchell’s zebra has faint stripes that are superimposed on the white sections of the coat. This is known as “shadow stripes.” These stripes usually extend to the abdomen and continue down to the hooves. The mountain zebra has solid stripes, and its stripes do not extend to the abdomen or the hooves.

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Generally, the Burchell’s or plains zebra thrive in savanna woodlands, and grasslands where there are few trees. These species stay clear of deserts, rainforests or wetlands, however the mountain zebra can be found in mountainous areas.


Zebra live exclusively in Africa. Their habitats are restricted to a certain range, which is tied to their historic habitat. The Burchell’s zebra is spread across southeastern Africa to southern Afruca. Whereas mountain zebra are restricted to southwest Africa, with a few sub species in Ethiopia and northern Kenya.

Behaviour & Territory

Zebras are extremely sociable animals, and various species have developed distinct hierarchies within their communities. There are certain species in which a single male watches over a group of females known as a harem, whereas other species live in groups but do not develop strong social relationships with one another. They are able to often alter the structure of the herd, and they will switch companions every few months on average.

Even after the family stallion has been displaced, the group is still able to maintain its stability. Burchell’s  zebras tend to congregate in big herds and may form briefly stable subgroups within larger herds. This behaviour opens the door for individuals within the herd to engage with members of other groups. Harems allow the females to spend more time nursing their young and provide protection for both the mothers and their offspring.

The females have a dominance hierarchy that is linear in nature, with the highest-ranking females being those that have been a part of the group for the longest. When the group is moving into new territory, the most dominant females and their progeny take the lead, followed by the next most powerful female. The family stallion may be seen following closely after. Young of both sexes eventually leave their parental groups when they reach sexual maturity; males from other groups typically herd in females to incorporate them into their harems.

Bachelor communities form when there are more men than females. Typically, they are young males that have not yet reached the maturity level required to create a harem or establish a territory. The older, male, Burchelle zebra are the most dominant, and the group’s membership is very consistent. In herds, bachelor groups are most often seen on the outskirts, and while the herd is moving, the bachelors usually linger behind or take up positions on the flanks.  In mountain zebra bachelor groups, there may also be young females who fled their original group before reaching sexual maturity as well as older males that were formerly part of the harem.

Fights between males typically entail biting and kicking and are sparked by competition for mates. Stallions of the Burchelle’s zebra species compete with one another for the right to bring newly developed mares into their herds, and a mare’s family stallion will defend her against other males who attempts to abduct her. A harem stallion is not often put to the test as long as he maintains his good health. It is only sick stallions that have their harems taken over by other stallions, and even then, the new stallion takes control gradually as the old one is replaced in a gentle manner.

Threats to Survival

The main threats to zebra survival include:

  • Habitat loss: As human populations grow, zebra habitats are being destroyed for agriculture and urban development.
  • Hunting: Zebras are hunted for their skin and meat, which can lead to population declines.
  • Disease: Zebras are susceptible to diseases transmitted by domestic livestock, which can have a devastating impact on wild populations.
  • Climate change: Changes in precipitation patterns can impact the availability of food and water for zebras.
  • Human-wildlife conflict: Zebras may be seen as pests by farmers, who may take measures to remove them from their land.
  • Human exploitation: Zebras are sometimes captured for use in the tourist industry or for their use in zoos.


What Do Zebras Eat?

Zebras are herbivores who graze on grasslands and occasionally browse on bush leaves and branches. They graze all day, clipping grass with their sharp front teeth.

What Sound Does a Zebra Make?

A bray. It sounds like a horse whinny and donkey’s bray. The herd can identify each other’s sounds since each individual has a different pitch.

Where Do Zebras Live?

In southern Africa, zebras can be found in a variety of habitats including savannas, grasslands, and deserts. Some of the countries where zebras can be found in southern Africa include:

  1. South Africa
  2. Namibia
  3. Botswana
  4. Zimbabwe
  5. Zambia

Additionally, zebras can also be found in protected areas such as national parks and game reserves, where they are protected from hunting and habitat destruction. These areas offer opportunities for tourists to see and photograph zebras in their natural habitats.