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Zebra, striped mammal native to Africa, smaller in size than the related horse and greatly resembling the wild ass in habit and form, having a short, erect mane, large ears, and a tufted tail. The stripes, which distinguish this animal from other members of the horse family, serve as protective coloration in its natural habitat. The chief enemies of the zebra are lions and hunters who kill zebras for their flesh and hide.
Three species and several subspecies are generally recognized, chiefly according to variations in the arrangement of the stripes. The mountain zebra is the smallest species, averaging about 1.2 m (about 4 ft) high at the shoulders, and has a strong, muscular, and symmetrical body. It is silver-white, striped with black markings that extend to every part of the body except the stomach and the inner part of the thighs. The markings on the head are brown, and the muzzle is a rich bay-tan. The legs are short and wiry. Mountain zebras travel in small herds and inhabit the mountain ranges of South Africa. This species was formerly plentiful but has been decimated by intensive hunting.
Plains zebras travel in large herds and inhabit the plains of central and eastern Africa. They are pale yellow with broad, black stripes, generally interspersed with fainter markings called shadow stripes. The species has several variations; some have stripes down to the hooves, and the lower legs of others are solid white without any stripes. The Boers refer to all varieties of plains zebras as quaggas. The true quaggas, however, were exterminated during the 19th century; they were darker in color than the plains zebra and striped only on the head, neck, and shoulders.
The largest species, Grévy's zebra, is named after the former French President Jules Grévy. It attains a height of about 1.5 m (about 5 ft) at the shoulders, and its stripes are narrow and numerous. Formerly plentiful and of wide range, this species now inhabits the arid plains of eastern Africa and is nearly extinct.
Scientific classification: Zebras belong to the family Equidae. The mountain zebra is classified as Equus zebra, the plains zebra as Equus quagga antiquorum, the true quagga as Equus quagga quagga, and Grévy's zebra as Equus grevyi.