Wednesday, 20 November 2013


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Is a zebra just a stripey horse or are the differences between the two more distinct?

The horse and donkey are the closet relatives of the zebra.  They are genetically close and can even mate to produce offspring known as zebriods and zorses.  The offspring are sterile though due to the fact that zebras have 44 chromosomes and domesticated horses have 66.


Zebras belong to the horse family and originate from Africa.  There are three species of zebra; the Plains Zebra, the Mountain Zebra and the Grevy’s Zebra. Each species has its own distinct characteristics.

Physically zebras more closely resemble donkeys than horses.  They are short and stocky in appearance and have long ears.  They have a much shorter mane than that of a horse, and it always sticks up. Their tails are solid with hair only at the end like a paintbrush.  Of course their black and white stripes are the most distinctive feature. These stripes are similar to our fingerprints in that each zebra has distinct and unique pattern of stripes.

Zebras have much better hearing and eyesight than horses, and this may be why they are also more skitish than horses. Unlike horses Zebras tend to hee-haw or honk like geese.  

Zebras differ from horses not just physically but also behave differently too.  Zebras are much more feisty than horses and the species refuses to be domesticated.  With a few exceptions, they cannot be trained to carry out tasks like pulling a cart or being ridden.


Horses originate from Europe. They have shorter ears than zebras, and are leaner and more elegant in stature.  Their mane is long and flowing, falling to one side, and their tail is made up entirely of hair.  Horses are much longer in the leg than zebras, who have about half the leg length.  Most obviously horses lack the distinct black and white stripes of the zebra.  

Horses tend to whinney and neigh. They are much more passive than zebras and have been domesticated over the years. They have been used to pull carts and work fields successfully.  The domestication of the horse goes back to 4000 BC. 

For related articles click onto:
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What is the difference between a zebra and a horse?
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Why are polar bears white?
What is the difference between a parrot and a macaw?

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