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An adult zebra can run at 64 km/h (40 mph) when galloping at full speed. Both Grevy’s zebra and Burchell’s zebra have this same top speed. Zebra are slower than horses but can run in a zigzag pattern to avoid predators.
How fast can a zebra run? The full story
With a top speed of 64 km/h, zebra are far from the fastest animals on the savannah. A cheetah can go from 0 – 100 km/h in just three seconds, reaching a top speed of 120 km/h.
A zebra’s main nemesis is the lion, an animal that can sprint at 80 km/h!
So how does the zebra evade its predators?
Running in a zigzag
Zebra and horses both belong to the horse family. Zebra are stockier, with a body that’s more like that of a donkey. They have shorter legs and smaller, oval hooves.
Horses can run faster but they can’t turn very effectively. Zebra are dynamic, running in zigzags to avoid faster predators. They are like a rugby or football player, sidestepping away from their opponents.
A black and white blur
Zebra have black and white stripes for camouflage. But how does black and white help against the green or brown background of the African savannah?
Just go on safari and you will find out!
When a striped animal stands motionless on a flat landscape of grass and shrubs, it blends into the background. Amazing, huh?
Every zebra has an individual pattern of stripes, as unique as our own fingerprints. They live together in herds. When hunted, zebra will run.
All those black and white stripes create a moving blur. This makes it very difficult for predators to single out their target.
Most predators, especially lions, predetermine a target and aim to separate it from the herd. When zebra run at anything over 30 km/h their dazzling stripes turn to an obscure haze, making it harder for cats to find their target.
Ask how fast is a zebra and you’ll find that they are slower than horses. However, zebra have far greater stamina.
Zebra can’t quite run forever. But they can run at full speed for over a mile. Their predators must pounce within the first kilometre; none of the cats can sprint for longer than that. So zebra will zigzag and zigzag until the predator runs out of energy.
At what age can a zebra run?
Zebra are born to run. They can walk and run within one hour of being born. That’s important, because young zebra are the food of choice for all the big cats, along with hyena and wild dog.
Young calves will be protected within the herd. Adults zebra are faster and will stay on the outside of the herd. Then the black and white blur helps to disguise the youngsters within.
Young zebra don’t have black stripes. At first their stripes are a soft brown colour, only turning fully black around one year of age.
Which is the fastest zebra?
All three zebra species can run at the same top speed of 64 km/h (40 mph) .
Burchell’s zebra (also known as plains zebra) are the most numerous zebra. There are hundreds of thousands of them living around East and Southern Africa.
Grevy’s zebra are the largest. They have thinner stripes and are only found in northern Kenya and southern Ethiopia.
Mountain zebra are shorter and are endangered like the Grevy’s zebra. Small isolated populations survive in Namibia, Angola and South Africa.
What sound does a zebra make?
That’s a question for another article! Learn all about zebra sounds here. 😉