Horse Tigers
Introduction

When it comes to zebras, it’s not all black and white. These spirited, striped African horses have rich, complex lives, as NATURE’s Horse Tigers shows.

There are actually three kinds of zebras that wander Africa’s grasslands and forests. By far the best known and most common is the Plains zebra, the stocky little grazer often seen milling amidst the herds of wildebeest and giraffes in many a wildlife film. Less known and rarer are the Grevy’s and Mountain zebras, which despite similar striping live very different lives.

Plains zebras, for instance, live in highly organized social groups, with a stallion overseeing a small group of mares and their foals. As Horse Tigers documents, the stallions forge remarkably close ties with other males, routinely greeting each other with elaborate, rubber-necked embraces and toothy nips. The mares, in turn, forge their own alliances, staying together even if their stallion dies and is replaced by another. The whole group moves together, often migrating across vast stretches to find greener grass and water. The oldest females appear to lead the way, probably because they have the best memory of where to find the best pickings. Herds of 100,000 or more Plains zebras — which are found across much of Africa south of the Sahara desert — may migrate together, creating a remarkable natural spectacle. In contrast, Grevy’s zebras live more solitary lives in the drier climates of eastern Africa. The mares do not form strong social bonds, and the stallions don’t keep a harem. Instead, male Grevy’s stake a claim to territory, and then seek to mate with females that move into the area.

This distinctly different behavior is partly explained by genetics. Researchers have found that the endangered Grevy’s zebra — just 5,000 to 10,000 remain — are more closely related to wild asses than they are to the Plains zebra. One difference that is apparent at first glance is that Grevy’s zebras have slimmer stripes than their cousins on the plains, giving them a less brash and more sophisticated look.

Mountain zebras also sport a different look. In addition to its own distinct striping pattern, the Mountain zebra is built more like a donkey, with long ears and an extra flap of skin on its throat. One variety of Mountain zebra, the Hartmann’s zebra of southwestern Africa, once appeared headed for extinction, but its numbers have rebounded from less than 10,000 to more than 15,000 in recent years. Another variety, the endangered Cape mountain zebra, is found only in protected reserves in South Africa.

Why these three different animals evolved their striking stripes (which have made zebras a popular exotic farm animal) is a mystery. Some researchers believe the pattern helps protect the animals from predators such as lions and leopards, either by helping them blend into the background, or by creating a confusing, dazzling mass of color when zebras move as a herd. The flickering confusion makes it difficult for the hunter to home in on a single animal.

Researchers do know that the stripes serve other purposes. You can, for instance, literally know a zebra by its stripes. Every zebra has a unique pattern that enables baby zebras — and keen-eyed researchers — to tell it apart from the others. Within species, however, the stripes can vary dramatically in their boldness and color. In some areas, for instance, Plains zebras may have no stripes on their bellies or legs. The variation, in fact, led some biologists to believe that there once was another kind of zebra — the Quagga, a brownish, lightly striped zebra that became extinct in the late 1800s and is now the focus of a restoration effort.

The mystery of the Quagga and the marvels of zebra behavior continue to fascinate animal lovers and researchers alike. Some are focused on understanding how these Horse Tigers live, in order to protect them from hunters and habitat destruction. Others seek to document the many ways in which these sturdy animals have adapted to often harsh, unforgiving environments. Together, their observations are replacing our black-and-white images of these high-contrast horses with a colorful, detailed portrait of one of Africa’s best known animals.

Online content for Nature’s Horse Tigers was originally posted August 2001.

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  • cindy

    this is kool

  • raerae

    the zebras are so cute

  • victoria

    i didn’t know htat zebras were caled horse tigers.!(:

  • Debbie

    Horse Tiger was a new phrase to me too.

  • jarryd

    i didnt no that they where called hores tigers ethe ??????????????????????????/

  • tionna

    cool

  • Jaimie

    Yeah, I learned something new today.
    Zebras are called horse tigers(:

  • anthony J Tata

    That is so cool

  • colleen

    oh my bug i dint know they could be called horse tigers

  • Alyssa

    i didnt know that eaither….but this is good stuuf to know

  • allie

    this is the best zebras r the most amazing animals ever and there CUTE!!!!! :]

  • bob

    ZEBRAS FLIPPIN ROCK!!!!!! :)

  • Izabella

    Unless you are a zoologist, you dont need to know that a horse tiger is called a horse tiger.

  • alissa

    WOW this zebras facts are awesome!!!!!

  • Candace

    love the Zebra facts and the Quagga. Since it has been determined that Quagga are a sub-species and not their own, it is good tho know about the extant zebras. however, since little is know about their behavior, they may have been as different as the Mountain, Plains, and Grevys’ zebras are from each other. Not a lot for us but maybe for them.

  • Alli

    This is so kool! I love zebras!!!

  • shanaynay

    zebras is awesome.

  • lauren

    heyyyy zebras are so cute i love them! LOL!!!!!!!!!:)

  • mckennzi

    ZEBRAS R SO CUTE IT IS SCARY! HORSE TIGERS,HUH THAT IS SO TOTALLY AWESOME!!!!!!!!!! GRRRRRRRRR LOL ;)!!!!

  • alice

    this is the stupidest thing ever

  • Chloe

    wow zebas have a weird name… (HEHE):)

  • lauren

    i love zebras
    GO zebras!!!!
    =)

  • lala

    i love zebras their the prettiest thinqs i’ve ever seen.
    they make me laugh ! && i always have a zebr print on my outfit everday && cheetahs too yo :)

  • Sarah

    Well ok they made a mistake, I dont know if anyone noticed but cape mountain zebra makes it a fourth type. Also what’s up with Quagga? I know what they are talking about, with the brown donkey-like zebra with sriped legs and its head reminds me of a cammel/donkey mix, but Quagga, they could have come up with a better name than that, something to kinda match the other names you know? Oh well, at least they made this story interesting.

  • AJ

    I LOVE ZEBRAS THERE SO AWESOME AND COOL

  • Audree

    Wow, im doing a Slide Show About zebras but i need to know are there anything else that zebras eat other then Grass.?

  • Pawlie

    Hi Audree,

    The Plains Zebra has been noted to also eat turtles.

  • gabe

    My hands are bananas=)

  • Stephanie

    There sould be more info on the anatomy and the activities of the zebra…:D

  • krystian

    OMG!I FREAKEN LUV ZEBRAS THEY R MII! FAVORITE ANIMALS N YEHHHHHHH! LOL U NO ITT!HAHA WOW THEY R COOL N MI FAVORITE TWO COLORS! 2 BAD THEY ARENT RAINBOW LOL!

  • jenn

    hey everyone who commented other than me, you guys are lame

  • bella cullen

    scientists have just discovered that zebras commonly poo out of their mouths

  • lizard

    I luv zebras!!!!OMG

  • Liz

    Zebras are sooooo cute!!!! <3 they are amazing!!!!

  • tyra

    i love it i dident no hardly any of it it relly helped with my science projerct

  • Macy

    Im making a slide show over Zebras. They are my favorite animal and they are very cool! I love the colors and pattern on their fur!

  • bob

    I love zerbas they are flipen cool dont be hatern on my buds dudes!!

  • Diggy Dog dude

    YEAH HOO!!!!!!!!!! zerbas are cooler thatn you will every be! HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • manny

    werrrd its dope bro

  • britanny

    zebras are so cool thats why im doing my research on them

  • carleyy:D

    i have to do report too

  • Haley::::)))

    zebras are so totally cute:)I love them:)totally awesome:)

  • JESSICA:) TIPTON:)

    omg i lovee zebras
    love them.:D

  • Shauna

    Does anyone know the zebra fertility?

  • Heather

    this is cool..i need to know and see a zebra’s food web :) thanx thanx

  • TREY:)

    i lovve zebrassssss

  • savannah

    i never new any thing about zebras it really helped with my languae project

  • AMY

    Is it endangered?

  • Beth

    horse tigers? wierd but cool lol!!!!

  • q-tip

    zebras rok man.i wish i had one for a pet i’d go everywere with it

  • MADISON

    THOSE ARE SOME CUTE ZEBRAS I LOVE THEM I AM IN THE FIFTH GRADE MY TEACHER NAME IS MRS HORNING

  • Landon

    OMG i love Zebras so MUCH!!! THEYRE SPECTACULAR

  • LANDON

    Zebras are the worst animal on earth. I HATE THEM. THEY DESERVE TO DIE EVERYDAY!! GO HITLER

  • amber shae:))

    OMG…, i think that zebras are soo cutee, and popular, :) theyyy aree the cutestt animals, at least 90% of my cloths have hot pink zebra stripes.
    :)**

  • patricia

    Why can zebras not be domesticated ?

  • taylor

    i love zebra’s they are the best animal

  • john

    How many times can a male zebra breed in one day

  • Rachel

    Yeah, zebras are a wonderful animal. However, has anyone here ever heard of grammar? Or better yet, does anyone know how to spell correctly?

  • harlo

    quaggas are extinct now anyway and zebra arn’t as good as them :)

  • Michele

    Whoever made this page just saved my grade for biology and my project. One question- what else does a zebra eat?
    <3 the white and black- (stripes of course!)

  • seven

    i love zebras i thank thay are the gratest animal on earth

  • payton

    HEY HEY I LOVE ZEBRAS SO MUCH I WISH YOU COULD HAVE THEM AS A PET BUT IT WOULD BE AWESOME IF THEY WERE HOT PINK AND BLACK STRIPED WE ZEBRAS ARE SO AWESOME AND IF YOU DONT LIKE THEM YOU ARE STUPID

  • ashley litchenburger

    omgggggggg i loove thesse cuute animmals !!!!!! well bbyeeee

  • adrie

    this is a awesome article but they need to put the weight of the tigers

  • Brookypoo

    Zebras are so cool !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GO ZEBRAS !!

    P.S what is there lifespan ??

  • ayman

    i ♥ zebras!!!

  • Breanna Nichols

    Zebras are my favorite animal in the whole world. Zebras are the most beauiful animal in the world.

  • randomer:) lol

    i want to know about the restoring of the quagga and selective breeding this is no help what so eva by the way zebras are cool lol <3 :)

  • MIMI

    Omg….. now i wish i had a zebra they r sooo cuttteee!

  • Kailyn

    i love zebras!!! They r the best and cutest animals on earth!!! PS: I have a pet zebra!! His name is Zeebro!! lol : )

  • maniaco

    tiger horses hahaha im only looking at this because of my project hahahahahah lmao and idgaf

  • Keiona

    Zebras have so many cool facts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Brooke

    I LOVE ZEBRAS

  • Caitlyn

    Thanks ,this helped so much with my research paper i have to give. Zebras ROCK!!!!!!

  • tesia

    these are cool facts and these facts can
    help so much people and it helped me
    for skool so much so thanks for who
    ever put this up!!! :D

  • sophia

    I LOVE ZEBRAS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!ALWAYS WILL!!!

  • sophia

    MY WHOLE ROOM IS PAINTED ZEBRA!!! I LUV THEIR STRIPES!!!!!!!!!!!!! THEY R SO CUTE!!!!!!!!!!!! I HOPE THEY LIVE FOREVER!!!

  • amy

    i love them so much i have to see one in persons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • hi

    hi

  • Zebra lover

    I luv zebras

  • Zebra fan!

    Omg!! This stuff is so cool! Zebras r sooo Cutee!!! :) I wish I could have one!! Ahahah

  • cuteboys101

    i FREAKIN love this animals !!!!!!!!!!!! i love them more than anyone else hahaha i beat you all:)

  • Alexa

    I LOVE ZEBRAS

  • blakpup

    Zebras r awesome coolllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! u cant beat that.

  • cute number 1 gabby

    zebras are like so cool but i never new they would be cald horse tigers

    what cant u beat, beat this !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    oh ya im cuter that zebras

  • Philippe Causse de Monredon

    Hello,
    If someone likes to know how to put the four types of Zebra in a Logical Order you can go on my french site:
    http://www.philippe-causse-de-monredon.com You’ll how it’s interesting and with the display you can try to find another way.
    Just one more thing… Donkey will come after Quagga and it’s why donkey get only one stripe staying on front legs…
    Enjoy it
    22-01-12
    Ph. C. de M.

  • kelis

    i love zebras

  • Angella wear

    Zebras are such peaceful animals,its one creature that you would to see in Uganda.The colors are beautiful and believe me am planning a safari to Africa particularly Lake Mburo.Thanks for the information and i love the site.

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