1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Zebra

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ZEBRA, the name used for all the striped members of the horse-tribe, although properly applicable only to the true or mountain zebra. The latter species (Equus zebra) inhabits the mountainous regions of the Cape Colony, where, owing to the advances of civilized man into its restricted range it has become very scarce, and is even threatened with extermination, but it exists in the form of a local race in Angola. The second species, Burchell's zebra (Equus burchelli), is represented by a large number of local races, ranging from the plains north of the Orange rivet to north-east Africa.

Equus zebra is the smaller of the two (about 4 ft. high at the shoulders), and has longer ears, a tail more scantily clothed with hair, and a shorter mane. The general ground colour is white, and the stripes are black; the lower part of the face is bright brown. With the exception of the abdomen and the inside of the thighs, the whole of the surface is covered with stripes, the legs having narrow transverse bars reaching quite to the hoofs, and the base of the tail being also barred. The outsides of the ears have a white tip and a broad black mark occupying the greater part of the surface, but are white at the base. Perhaps the most constant and obvious distinction between this species and the next is the arrangement of the stripes on the hinder part of the back, where there are a number of short transverse bands reaching to the median longitudinal dorsal stripe, and unconnected with the uppermost of the broad stripes which pass obliquely across the haunch from the flanks towards the root of the tail. There is often a median longitudinal stripe under the chest.

EB1911 Zebra - Equus zebra.jpg

Fig. 1.—The True or Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra).

Typically, Burchell's zebra, or the bonte-quagga (Equus burchelli), is a rather larger and more robust animal, with smaller ears, a longer mane, and fuller tail. The general ground-colour of the body is pale yellowish brown, the limbs nearly white, the stripes dark brown or black. In the typical form the stripes do not extend on to the limbs or tail; but there is a great variation in this respect, and as we proceed north the striping increases, till in the north-eastern E. burchelli granti the legs are striped to the hoofs. There is a strongly marked median longitudinal ventral black stripe, to which the lower ends of the transverse side stripes are usually united, but the dorsal stripe (also strongly marked) is completely isolated in its posterior half, and the uppermost of the broad haunch stripes runs nearly parallel to it. A much larger proportion of the ears is white than in the other species. In the middle of the wide intervals between the broad black stripes of the flanks and haunches fainter stripes are generally seen. It is closely allied to the quagga, but the typical form, in which the resemblance is closest, is extinct. The Abyssinian and Somali Grévy's zebra (E. grevyi) is markedly distinguished by its enormous ears and more numerous and narrower black stripes. The flesh of Burchell's zebra (or quagga, as it is often called) is relished by the natives as food, and its hide is very valuable for leather. Although the many attempts that have been made to break in and train zebras for riding and driving have sometimes been rewarded with partial success, the animal has never been domesticated in the true sense of the word (see Horse).

(W. H. F.; R. L.*)

EB1911 Zebra - Equus burchelli.jpg

Fig. 2. — Burchell's Zebra (E. burchelli).