Do People Eat Zebras? (+ Why Do They Have Stripes)

In most places, zebras are rare animals that are only seen in zoos. But what about those places where zebras are more common. Do people eat zebras there? 

Yes, some people eat zebras. It is not much encouraged, though, since the natural habitats of zebras are continually shrinking. In some places where they used to live, like Burundi and Lesotho, zebras are even extinct. There is only one of the three breeds of zebra that is allowed to be farmed for consumption, the Burchell breed from South Africa. Since the only edible part of a zebra are its hindquarters, there is a lot of waste, which is another reason why zebras are not very popular meat.

An adult Burchell's Zebra trotting through the Southern African savannah
An adult Burchell’s Zebra trotting through the Southern African savannah

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Most people who consume zebra do so for fitness reasons rather than because of its taste. It is very lean, but, because of its low-fat content very robust in texture, so, you have to chew a lot and it is best eaten in very thin stripes. 

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes? 

Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?
Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?

The most striking thing about zebras is without a doubt their stripes. But what is the reason for this fashionable fur? Scientists are not completely sure, but there are three theories that are mainly favored: firstly, for some reason, the stripy design seems to repel horseflies.

When the diet of African tsetse flies has been analyzed, there were no traces of zebra blood found, even though the short hairs should pose no strong barrier to a thirsty insect. There have also been experiments with horses dressed up as zebras, which show that flies do not land on striped surfaces. Therefore, it comes as no surprise, that zebras display especially pronounced stripe patterns in areas where there are a lot of horseflies! 

A second potential reason for the stripes might be thermoregulation. Since dark surfaces heat up in the sun and bright ones stay cooler, the combination of black and white stripes leads to zebras staying comfortable in direct sunlight. 

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The third theory, and probably the most well-known, is that the stripes are camouflage for hiding from predators. Wildlife biologist Tim Caro, though, has collected arguments against this. While the stripes would hide zebras very well in woods, where the light falls through the foliage in irregular patterns, they spend most of their time in open grasslands, where they are very easily seen.

Also, lions seem to have no trouble eating a lot of zebras, so if their stripes are meant as camouflage, they are very bad at it.  

Do Zebras Have Striped Skin? 

Do Zebras Have Striped Skin?
Do Zebras Have Striped Skin?

No, beneath their stipes the skin of a zebra is uniformly black. This means that – even though the pattern of the actual fur consists of black stripes on a white background – technically, zebras are black.

Most animals that have interesting fur patterns, like also giraffes, do not have patterned skin. For big cats like tigers and leopards, the opposite is true though, and the skin shows their respective stripes and spots. 

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Why Do Zebras Kill Foals? 

Growing up as a zebra foal is not easy, because young zebras are always at risk of getting killed. But why would adult animals kill the young of their own species? Males kill foals that have been fathered by another mail to assert their dominance in the herd.

When the foal they kill is a male, they thereby also assure that it will not become a future rival in the patriarchal zebra herd. When the foals of a female zebra are killed, she is also free again to be a potential reproductive partner, so that the aggressive male can further his own lineage. 

Do Zebras and Horses Make the Same Kind of Noise? 

Do Zebras and Horses Make the Same Kind of Noise?
Do Zebras and Horses Make the Same Kind of Noise?

Horses and zebras look very similar since they are both members of the Equidae family. Aside from their similar anatomy they also have a similar social life and tend to live in herds. Mostly, they even communicate with the same kinds of sounds.

They both snort by blowing air through their nose and lips, and nicker, a soft sound made as a friendly greeting. Two noises though differentiate zebras from horses: like donkeys and mules, zebras bray – a sound that is somewhere between grunting and squealing and that is mostly used to attract males and that can be heard over a long distance.

They also give a high-pitched bark to locate their herd. This sound fulfills the same function as the neigh of a horse.

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