17 April 2023

What do zebras eat?

By Killian

What do zebras eat?

Zebras are animals that belong to the family Equidae and to the genus equus. They are distinctive mammals because of their resemblance to horses and donkeys, to whom they are related, although they are distinguished from them by their striking patterns of black and white stripes.

Zebras are specifically native to Africa, and depending on the species, they inhabit different regions and habitats of the continent. Have you ever wondered what kind of diet these animals have. Continue reading this AnimalWised article and find out what do zebras eat.

The type of diet of zebras is exclusively herbivorous, so they eat different types of plants, especially grass, although it depends on the availability of the habitat in which they develop. They can also eat parts of plants, such as leaves, branches, or even bark.

If we compare them with ruminants, which are also herbivores, zebras have a simpler digestive systembut they are capable of subsisting in the same way only consuming plant-type food sources, even some of low nutritional value for other specialized herbivorous animals.

Their dental system is adapted for this type of feeding, thus, they have large incisors with which they cut the plants and then process them with their premolars and molars, adjusted to grind the food.

Zebras are adapted, most likely as a survival mechanism, to walk soon after they are born, which it has been estimated that they can do about 20 minutes after leaving the womb. They can also run after an hour. In this sense, based on the above, we can note that these animals are born sufficiently developed to move, however, being small they are more easily exposed to predators.

Being mammalian animals, they require the consumption of breastmilknevertheless, since they are born they begin to nibble the plants. In this way, baby zebras eat both milk and something from plants.

Small zebras nurse approximately every hour over a period of three periods, an initial one that lasts about a minute and two later ones that last just a few seconds. This occurs the first three months, after this time the frequency begins to decrease. On average, zebras they are weaned around 10 months.

What do zebras eat?  - What do baby zebras eat?

Adult zebras eat different types of plants, some with greater nutritional value than others, although the latter are also used if necessary. As we have mentioned, the specific consumption of food or type of vegetation depends on the habitat because, depending on the species, zebras live in different regions.

In this way, we know what do adult zebras eat according to species that, as we show in this other post, there are three types of zebra that exist:

Grevy’s zebra feeding (Equus grevyi)

The main food of this type of zebra is the herbs and the hard grasses of the arid or semi-arid shrubby areas where it lives. However, when the dry season arrives and the pastures are scarce, it opts for the consumption of leaves that supply its nutritional requirements. This species is capable of eating various parts of the vegetation that cattle usually do not consume, so it takes advantage of this advantage.

Another important aspect is that the Grevy’s zebra lives in places with a permanent presence of water, so it needs to move when the amount of water is reduced. In these animals it has been shown that they can go a maximum of five days without drinking waterexcept for lactating females, which require drinking every other day to produce milk properly.

Diet of the plains zebra (equus quagga)

The plains zebra feeds mainly on long herbsopting preferably for species such as Themeda triandra, Cynodon dactylon, Eragrostis superba and Cenchrus ciliaris. Commonly, certain populations of this species migrate in search of resources when they become scarce.

Migration processes make it possible to search for higher quality plants, although this is not limiting, since do not rule out other types of plants if necessary. In this way, they can be concentrated in high-altitude pastures with a large biomass, which in the end is what the animal prioritizes over quality.

As it happens with the other species, it has a general diet as far as grasses are concerned, feeding on large amounts of them, from which it obtains important supplies of fiber and protein. Although the digestive system is not as efficient as that of ruminants, it does process food quickly, allowing it to consume larger amounts.

Mountain zebra feedingequus zebra)

This species lives in mountainous areas where it feeds mainly on pasturesbut eventually also consumes certain branches of plants. In certain regions, the mountain zebra mainly opts for greener plants, taking both the leaves and stems from them. Among some of the species that this type of zebra feeds on we have Themeda triandra, Cymbopogon plurinodis, Heteropogon contortus and Enneapogon scoparius.

On the other hand, it has been detected that during the summer this animal goes to places with mineral soils to lick them, so it can make up for some nutritional deficiencies with this practice.

What do zebras eat?  - What do adult zebras eat?