Mountain zebra

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Mountain zebra
Hartmann's mountain zebra (E. zebra hartmannae)
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Perissodactyla
Family: Equidae
Genus: Equus
Subgenus: Hippotigris
Species: E. zebra
Binomial name
Equus zebra
Linnaeus, 1758
  • E. z. zebra
  • E. z. hartmannae

see text

Mountain zebra range

The mountain zebra (Equus zebra) is a threatened species of equid native to south-western Angola, Namibia and South Africa. It has two subspecies, the Cape mountain zebra (E. z. zebra) and Hartmann's mountain zebra (E. z. hartmannae), though it has been suggested these should be considered separate species.


In 2004, C. P. Groves and C. H. Bell investigated the taxonomy of the zebras (genus Equus, subgenus Hippotigris). They concluded that the Cape mountain zebra (Equus zebra zebra) and Hartmann's mountain zebra (Equus zebra hartmannea) are distinct, and suggested that the two would be better classified as separate species, Equus zebra and Equus hartmannae.[2]

However, in a sexual genetic study that included 295 mountain zebra specimens, Moodley and Harley (2005) found no genetic evidence to regard the two mountain zebra taxa as anything more than different populations of a single species. They concluded that the Cape mountain zebra and Hartmann's mountain zebra should remain as subspecies.[3]

The third edition of Mammal Species of the World (2005) lists the mountain zebra as a single species (Equus zebra) with two subspecies.[4]


A Hartmann's mountain zebra with a Barbary sheep behind it, in captivity at Ueno Zoo, Japan.
Hartmann's mountain zebra resting, showing its characteristic essentially unbarred belly

Like all extant zebras, it is boldly striped in black and white and no two individuals look exactly alike. The stripes can be either black or dark brown and white. Their stripes cover their whole bodies except for their bellies. The mountain zebra also has a dewlap.

Adult mountain zebras have a head-and-body length of 2.1 to 2.7 m (6 ft 11 in to 8 ft 10 in) and a tail of 40 to 55 cm (16 to 22 in) long. Shoulder height ranges from 1.1 to 1.5 m (3 ft 7 in to 4 ft 11 in). They weigh from 204 to 372 kg (450 to 820 lb).[5][6] Groves and Bell[full citation needed] found that the Cape mountain zebra exhibits sexual dimorphism, with larger females than males, while the Hartmann's mountain zebra does not. The black stripes of Hartmann's mountain zebra are thin with much wider white interspaces, while this is the opposite in the Cape mountain zebra.


Mountain zebras are found on mountain slopes, open grasslands, woodlands and areas with sufficient vegetation.


Mountain zebras live in hot, dry, rocky, mountainous and hilly habitats. They prefer slopes and plateaus and can be found as high as 1,000 metres (3,300 ft) above sea level, although they do migrate lower in the winter season. Their diet consists of tufted grass, bark, leaves, buds, fruit, and roots. They often dig for ground water.

The Cape mountain zebra and the Hartmann's mountain zebra are now allopatric, meaning that their present ranges are nonoverlapping. They are therefore unable to crossbreed. This is a result of their extermination by hunting in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Historically mountain zebras could be found across the entire length of the mountainous escarpment that runs along the west coast of southern Africa as well as in the fold mountain region in southern South Africa.

Life cycle[edit]

The mountain zebras form small family groups consisting of a single stallion, one, two, or several mares, and their recent offspring. Bachelor males live in separate groups and attempt to abduct young mares and are opposed by the stallion. Mountain zebra groups do not aggregate into large herds like Plains zebras.

Mares give birth to at least 1 foal. The foal feeds on its mothers milk for a year and then starts eating grass, tree leaves, etc. After 14–16 months,[7] a male foal must leave the herd and form a new one. If the colt is too stubborn, it will stay and try a challenging fight with the stallion or lead mare.


The main threats to the species are from loss of habitat to agriculture, hunting and persecution. A zebra produces a good quantity of meat, and poaching them for food (due to hunger in the region caused by guerrilla wars) has helped decline their numbers.[7] Also, crossbreeding between the Cape mountain zebra and the Hartmann's mountain zebra has decreased the genetic diversity.


The species is listed as Vulnerable under the IUCN Red List. The Cape mountain zebra was hunted to near extinction with less than 100 individuals by the 1930s. In 1998 it was estimated that approximately 1,200 Cape mountain zebra survived, of which around 542 occurred in national parks, 491 in provincial nature reserves, and 165 in other reserves. However the population has increased to about over 2,700 in the wild due to conservation efforts. Both mountain zebra subspecies are currently protected in national parks but are still threatened. There is a European Zoo's Endangered Species Program for this zebra as well as co-operative management of zoo populations worldwide.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Novellie, P. (2008). Equus zebra. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 10 April 2009. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is vulnerable.
  2. ^ Groves, C. P. & Bell, H. B. 2004. New investigations on the taxonomy of the zebras genus Equus, subgenus Hippotigris. Mammalian Biology. 69: 182-196. abstract online
  3. ^ Moodley, Y. & Harley, E. H. 2005 Population structuring in mountain zebras (Equus zebra): the molecular consequences of divergent demographic histories. Conservation Genetics 6: 953–968.
  4. ^ Grubb, P. (2005). "Order Perissodactyla". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 633. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494. 
  5. ^ [1] (2011).
  6. ^ [2] (2011).
  7. ^ a b
  • Duncan, P. (ed.). 1992. Zebras, Asses, and Horses: an Action Plan for the Conservation of Wild Equids. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN/SSC Equid Specialist Group.

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