The most familiar of the striped members of the horse family, living in harems on the grasslands of Africa.
Three subspecies recognised.
230cm long, head to tail standing about 1.4m at the shoulder.
Short-legged and rather fat-looking horses, the most obvious feature of plains zebra is their black and white stripes. These cover the body in a pattern unique to each individual. They are generally vertical down the neck, becoming diagonal towards the rear, and horizontal on the legs. They are relatively broad (compared to other species of zebra). The mane is upright and striped to match the neck. The tail is striped with a dark tassle.
Savannah and grasslands.
Zebras are social animals - communicating through changes in the positions of the ears and tail as well as sound. The social group consists of a male and a few females, which stay in the same harem all their adult lives, staying in a home range. However, harems often group to form herds, joined with large numbers of bachelor males, and in places where the dry season is harsh, such as the Serengeti, the harems gather to migrate.
Males fight over the possession of harems, and mating can take place at any time of year (peaking after rain). The gestation period is 370 days, after which a single foal is born that is able to walk and suckle within an hour of birth. If in good condition, the female may come into heat immediately after the birth. Otherwise the birth interval is two years. The mother keeps the foal away from the herd for several days. The foal starts grazing after a few weeks but is not weaned for 8-13 months. Sexual maturity is reached at 3, although males cannot usually defend a harem until they are 6 or more.
Not currently threatened.
A number of braying calls and whickering greetings.
Modern horses are all closely related. They all have only one functional toe (with the nail formed into a hoof) on each foot. Their ancestors back in the Eocene, though, like Propalaeotherium, had three on the front feet and four on the back. They also had pads like a cat or dog. They were small animals, living in the vast expanses of Eocene forest. As plains opened up, fast-running animals evolved. Some horses adapted to this lifestyle and grew long, running legs. Some reduced their toes further to just one, and about 2 million years ago the first Equus appeared. During the Pleistocene most of the horse family went extinct, and only Equus survived, giving rise to all the modern horses.