Zebras are members of the horse family and are native to central and southern Africa. All zebras have vividly contrasting black and white vertical stripes (hence the zebra crossing named after it) on the forequarters, often tending towards the horizontal at the rear of the animal. Most zoologists believe the stripes act as a camouflage mechanism; although some believe it plays a role in their social interactions, acting as a means to distinguish an individual from all of the others in slight variations of the stripes.
There are three species and many subspecies. Zebra populations vary a great deal, and the relationships between and the taxonomic status of several of the subspecies are unclear.
The Plains Zebra (Equus quagga, formerly Equus burchelli) is the most common, and has or had about five subspecies distributed across much of southern and eastern Africa. Particular subspecies, have also been known as the Common Zebra, the Dauw, Burchell’s Zebra (actually the extinct subspecies, Equus quagga burchelli), and the Quagga (another extinct subspecies, Equus quagga quagga).
The Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra) of southwest Africa tends to have a sleek coat with a white belly and narrower stripes than the Plains Zebra. It has two subspecies and is classified as endangered.
Grevy’s Zebra (Equus grevyi) is the largest type, with an erect mane, and a long, narrow head making it appear rather mule-like. It is a creature of the semi-arid grasslands of Ethiopia, Somalia, and northern Kenya. It is endangered too.