BURCHELLS ZEBRA - Equus burchelli
SIZE: Average shoulder height 1,36 m; mass (m) 313
kg, (f) 300 kg.
COLOUR: Whitish or cream coat with black stripes which
continue under the belly. Yellow or grey 'shadow stripes'
between the black markings on the hindquarters.
GESTATION PERIOD: 12 months
POTENTIAL LONGEVITY: 35 years
MOST LIKE: The Cape Mountain Zebra, but the latter
lacks the shadow stripes. Burchell's zebra is bigger
than the mountain zebra and the black stripes on its
head and body are generally broader and fewer. The
stripes reach right around the body, and only on the
outside of the legs.
HABITAT: Open, grassy plains or lightly-wooded bushveld,
open scrub and grassland, near water.
Timid and restless - they invariably bolt from a water
hole after drinking - Burchell's zebra are also noisy and
very excitable. Their piercing whinny kwa-ha! kwa-ha! is
identical to that of the now-extinct quagga. Under attack
from predators, males will compromise their own safety as
they courageously take a protective rearguard position while
the rest of the group flees. In very large herds stallions
will also form a defensive line along the flanks. The Burchell's
habit of keeping close to herds of grazing wildebeest is
probably not coincidental: this strategy increases its chances
of survival, as most predators prefer eating wildebeest.
You may also see zebras fraternising with other species
of sociable antelope and ostrich. Zebra stallions and their
mates are fiercely protective of their young: in average
breeding herds (small family groups) of 3 -7 animals, the
stallion and his mares will use bared teeth and flailing
hooves to attack and maul threatening lions and hyaenas.
Young or surplus stallions form bachelor herds. A single
foal is born.
Burchell's Zebra galloping across the plains, with their magnificent
shining coats and rounded bodies rocking in the sun, are one
of the truly magnificent spectacles of the southern African
subcontinent. Their characteristic striped coats make them easily
recognizable: they are distinguishable from the two species
of mountain zebra by the yellowish or greyish shadow stripes
between the stripes on their rumps, the absence of a dewlap,
and the stripes which continue under the belly, although no
two individuals are exactly alike. The function of their stripes
has led to much speculation: it may provide a form of camouflage
under certain light conditions, or may confuse a predator as
to their direction of movement, particularly when close up.
They are mainly grazers, but will occasionally browse and feed
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