Common or Plains Zebra (Equus burchelli)

Terry Bailey

Joined January 2011

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Common or plains zebras are several species of African equids (horse family) united by their distinctive black and white stripes. Their stripes come in different patterns unique to each individual. They are generally social animals that live in small to large herds. Zebras unlike their closest relatives, horses and asses have never trulybeen domesticated.

Research shows that three distinct species of zebras exist, the plains zebra the Grevy’s zebra and the Mountain zebra. The plains zebra (Equus burchelli) and the mountain zebra (Equus zebra) which has species andbelong to the subgenus Hippotigris, but Grevy’s zebra (Equusgrevyi) is the sole species of subgenus Dolichohippus. The latter resembles an ass, to which it is closely related, while the former two are more horse-like. All three belong to the genus Equus.

The unique stripes of zebras make these among the animals most familiar to people. They live in a variety of habitats, such as grasslands, savannas, woodland, thorny scrub land, mountains and hills.

However, various anthropogenic factors have had a severe impact on zebra populations, in particular hunting for skins and habitat destruction. Grevy’s zebra and the mountain zebra are endangered. While plains zebras are much more plentiful, one subspecies, the (quagga), became extinct in the late 19th century, though there is currently a project, called the Quagga prject, that aims to breed zebras that are phenotypically similar to the quagga in a process called breeding back.

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