9 Differences Between A Zebra And A Horse


Although the horse and zebra are genetically similar and belong to the same family: the Equine family, the two animals have different yet interesting external features.

Zebras can be distinguished from horses by their black and white stripes. Zebras are smaller and lighter than horses, diet, speed, sound, domestication, behaviour, and reproduction.

Let’s see what differences there are.

Body size

There are three species of zebra. Of the three species, Grevy’s zebra is the largest. They are about 5 feet tall from the hoof to the shoulder and weigh 770-990 pounds. The plains zebra’s maximum weight is about 770 pounds with a height of 3.6-4.8 feet from the hoof to the shoulder. The smallest species of zebra is the mountain zebra. They weigh between 529 and 820 pounds and stand between 3.8 and 4.9 feet.

A horse can weigh up to 2200 pounds and stand 69 inches from the shoulder to the hoof. The smallest breed of horses, the Falabella, can weigh up to 120 pounds with a diminutive height of 30 inches from the shoulder to the hoof.

Smaller and lighter than horses, zebras have donkey-like bodies. A horse’s torso is more muscular, but zebras are stockier.

Zebras are social animals.  Find out more in this article I wrote

Body Color

A zebra has uniquely arranged black and white stripes covering its body. They also have a black and white coat of hair and a black muzzle. Horses come in many colours like brown, black, white, grey, or mixed coats with a black, pink, or brown muzzle.

Structure of legs, hooves, tail, mane, head, neck, and ears

Zebras have short legs, almost the same size as their upper body. However, a horse’s legs are longer than its upper body. There are also differences between their hooves. A zebra’s hooves are smaller, oval, and much harder than a horse’s.

A zebra’s tail is solid with a hairy crest on its end, whereas a horse’s tail is hairy all over. Whereas the zebra’s mane is short and erect, a horse’s mane is long and hairy and freely rests on its neck. A horse has a longer and thicker neck and a more elongated head than a zebra. Finally, a zebra’s ears are more rounded and larger than a horse’s.

Do you know where zebras live?  Find out here

Diet

While both horse and zebra are herbivores and feed on grass, a horse is more specialized. Domesticated horses can also feed on hay, rolled oats, bran, or barley. In addition, people augment the nutrition that horses derive from their food by giving them salt and mineral blocks to lick. Contrariwise, a zebra can feed on shrubs, twigs, and bushes when the grass is scarce.

Speed

A zebra has an estimated speed of 40 miles per hour, while a horse can achieve a maximum speed of 54.7 miles per hour, making it faster than a zebra and appropriate for racing. In addition, although a zebra is slower than a horse, it can quickly run in a zigzag manner to escape from its predators.

Domestication

It is easy to domesticate a horse compared to a zebra. Horse domestication began in Southeast Europe about 4000 years BC. However, zebras can be highly territorial and not cooperative with human beings. Zebras are much more aggressive than horses and are often ready to defend themselves by kicking and biting.

The body of a zebra is also not as suitable for riding as a horse. Due to their size and shape, it would be harder for somebody to ride a zebra.

Sound

Horses and zebras do have similar sounds. Both zebras and horses sniffle and snort, but each has its sound. A zebra will let out a high-pitched barking sound to attract the attention of other zebras or to alert them about danger. Horses will whinny to attract attention or warn others about the threat.

Do you know how good a zebra’s senses are?  Find out here

Reproduction

The time it takes for a zebra and a horse to give birth is about the same. A zebra has a 12-14 months gestation period, while a horse’s gestation period is 11-12 months.

At birth, baby zebras weigh about 55-88 pounds, and the foals can stand and walk soon after birth. Zebras mature much quicker than horses. Zebras are fully mature when they are between three to six years old.

On the other hand, Horses are fully mature when they are between five to seven years old. A foal’s weight is about 10 per cent of the mother’s weight at birth, although they can stand and walk within two hours.

Behaviour

The mountain zebras and plains zebras live in family groups, led by a mature stallion. These groups consist of one male with several offspring and a harem of mares. However, Grevy’s zebras don’t form groups. Instead, stallions create territories, and mares go to them for breeding. On the other hand, horses live in herds (are social). They live in packs of 3-20 animals in the wild, led by a Stallion. The rest of the herd consists of females and offspring.

Did you know that zebras sometimes kill foals? Find out why here

Conclusion

Even though zebra and horse belong to the same family, their external appearances differ significantly in striping and colouration. For example, a zebra is smaller than a horse, its tail hairs come from the distal half of the tail, and its mane is less conspicuous. On the other hand, a horse’s mane is noticeable, and its tail emanates from the tail’s base. Moreover, the zebra’s muzzle is ever black, but the horse’s muzzle can be black, brown, or pink. Horses can run faster than zebras.

Additionally, horses are easy to domesticate as opposed to zebras. While zebras can diversify their dietary habits in the wild, horses feed on grass and special feeds provided by those who domesticate them. Furthermore, the gestation periods for a zebra and a horse are 12-14 months and 11-12 months, respectively. Finally, while horses live in packs of 3-20 animals in the wild, zebras live in family groups with offsprings and mares, except Grevy’s zebra.

Zebras migrate every year but do you know why?  Find out more here

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