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What Is in a Zebra's Habitat?

Sarah R. LaVergne
Sarah R. LaVergne

The qualities of a zebra's habitat vary by species of zebra. There are three species of zebra: Grevy's, Mountain, and Burchell's (also known as Plains). The Grevy's zebra lives in a habitat including grasslands and savannas. Mountain zebras live on slopes and plateaus of mountains, as the name states. Burchell's or Plains zebras inhabit savannas, short grasslands, tall grasslands and open woodlands.

Grevy's zebras are larger than plains zebras. They have more narrow black stripes, big round ears and a white belly. Mostly located in Northern Kenya and southern to southeaster Ethiopia, this species of zebra inhabits savannas and grasslands.


Plains zebras coat can vary in number and size of stripes and the mane is short, erect hair with a tuft on the tail. Northern Kenya is the most common location for Plains zebras. The Plains zebra's habitat consists of the savannas, short grasslands, tall grasslands and open woodlands.

Grass in the tall grasslands can reach a height of 5 feet (1.5 m) tall and typically get 30 inches (76.2 cm) of rain a year. Unlike the tall grasslands, short grasslands have short grass with only approximately 10 inches (25.4 cm) of rain a year, which typically halts growth. As a combination of both, mixed grasslands grow around 2-3 feet (0.6-0.9 m) and get close to 15-25 inches (38.1-63.5 cm) of rain in a year.

People on a safari on a savannah, where zebras live.
People on a safari on a savannah, where zebras live.

The savannas are also common habitats for Grevy's and Plains zebras. Grass covers the majority of the area while trees are widely spaced out. Tree cover is only 5% to 30% of the area. Rain is plentiful enough to grow grass but not forests. Periods of drought are present, causing occasional fires to breakout and spread.

Open woodland is the only type of zebra's habitat that the Grevy's and Plains do not share. This is open forest land with a low density of trees. Plenty of sunlight shines through, but there is hardly any shade. Grass, shrubs and herbaceous plants are plentiful.

Mountain zebras are different because they have a dewlap, or flap of skin, on the throat. Wide stripes cover the rump area. Wambia and Western and Southern South Africa are the most common areas that Mountain zebras can be found. Just as the name states, Mountain zebra's habitat is on the slopes and plateaus in mountainous areas. Different locations on the mountain provide shade, temperature changes and precipitation. As the Mountain zebra moves higher the temperature drops and winds blow harder. Lakes, streams and rivers provide the surrounding animals with water. Depending on the Altitudinal Vegetation Zone, plants an grow to feed the Mountain zebra. As the altitude gets higher the plants become smaller and there is a lower rate of growth for the animals. Due to the altitude change there is a lower amount of animals which means less competition for food.

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