The Common Zebra at the Springfield Science Museum was purchased by the Museums from the Jonas Brothers Studio in Mount Vernon New York in 1981 as part of a taxidermied collection of African animals for African Hall.
Zebras are members of the horse family and are related to horses and donkeys. They live in Southeastern Africa. They eat mostly grasses, but sometimes leaves, twigs and bark. There are three species: The Grevy’s zebra, the Plains or Common zebra and the Mountain zebra. Zebras come in different sizes, shapes and stripe patterns.
Zebra stripe patterns are like finger prints, or snowflakes or bar codes. Each one is unique. Scientists have wondered about the purpose of the stripes. One theory is that they act as camouflage to help blend into the tall grass for protection from lions. Another theory is that the shiny coat and stripes keep the zebra cooler and less likely to be bitten by flies.
Mountain zebras live in large herds, but stay in smaller groups with a male and about six mares and their offspring. They have hard, sharp hoofs that help them navigate the hilly, rocky places in south Africa and Namibia. Because of loss of habitat, hunting and disease, they are considered Vulnerable. There are only about 9000 left.
Plains or Common zebras have six subspecies. They are the smallest and most numerous and least threatened. It is estimated that there are 750,000 roaming all over southeastern Africa. They have broader stripes that are almost vertical in the front part of the body and then tend toward horizontal in the hindquarters. The further south they live, the fewer stripes on their legs. Their biome is temperate grasslands. Annually, they migrate up to 1,800 miles across Tanzania and Kenya in search for food and water.
Grevy’s zebras live in Kenya and Ethiopia. They are named for a French President after he was presented one as a gift from Ethiopia. They the largest in size, but most endangered. There are only about 2000 left.
Mountain zebras whinny like a horse, Grevy’s zebras bray like a donkey and Plains/Common zebras bark like a dog. Listen here.
Beth Evans is Science Docent at the Springfield Museums.